Japan’s integrated resort casino law, passed by the National Diet in July of 2018, will go into effect on Monday, July 19, 2021.
Known as the IR Implementation Act, the legislation decriminalizes commercial gaming for operators who obtain a casino license from the central government. The bill additionally sets the regulatory framework for the application and review process that Japan’s Casino Administration Committee will use to determine which schemes will be awarded the coveted permits. The Act allows for as many as three IR licenses.
In light of the fact that promoting implementation of Specified Integrated Resort Areas contributes to the development of tourism and local economies, as well as improvement of the financial position, the purpose of this act is to set out the fundamental principles, fundamental policies, and other fundamental matters relating to the promotion of the implementation of Specified Integrated Resort Areas,” the IR Implementation Act reads.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet this week voted to make the 2018 casino regulatory law effective on Monday.
When Japan first began discussing the idea of legalizing commercial gambling more than half a decade ago, the global gaming industry viewed the potential market as the largest opportunity since China’s Macau. The world’s biggest casino operators — Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, Melco Resorts, to name a few — said they would spend whatever it takes to obtain gaming rights in Japan.
But because of the long, tedious process Japan embarked on in moving to legalizing gambling, and then the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of that hardy interest is gone.
Sands and Caesars are out, and MGM says it wants to take a reduced investment role in an IR. Melco has greatly backtracked on CEO Lawrence Ho’s 2018 comments that his firm would have an open checkbook when it comes to Japan, saying that Melco “prefers not to constrain our dreams with price tags.”
Negative public opinion regarding bringing casinos to Japan has resulted in only four cities — Osaka, Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Wakayama — remaining in the bidding pool. And that number could be reduced to three next month should Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi fail to win reelection, as her opponents are running on anti-IR agendas.
The interested cities and their host prefectures have been working on which IR consortium pitch to select. Once they do, they will make their cases for licensure to the central government and Japan’s Casino Administration Committee.
The Casino Administration Committee will begin fielding IR schemes in October, and welcome proposals through April of 2022.
The IR Implementation Act says the casino projects should take advantage of the regional characteristics of where they’re built, and contribute in a positive manner to their host city and surrounding areas.
“The government shall take necessary measures so that the Specified Integrated Resort Areas will have the features central to establishing genuine internationally competitive and attractive tourist destinations, while utilizing regional characteristics,” the law explains.
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