Japan edges closer to lifting casino ban

October 24, 2013 4:50 am

Japan edges closer to lifting casino ban

By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo

A long-debated proposal to lift Japan’s ban on casino gambling could finally come to fruition this year after a multi-party group of lawmakers agreed to submit a legalisation bill to the current session of parliament. Iwaya Tsutomu, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic party who is part of the pro-casino group, said Tokyo’s selection last month as host of the 2020 Olympic games had given fresh impetus to its push for legalisation.“There will be a major world event here, and we should make this a goal in our effort to turn Japan [into] a tourism power,” he told reporters after a meeting of the group late on Wednesday.

Japan allows betting on horse, boat and bicycle races, as well as lotteries and pachinko, a version of pinball in which winning players collect cash prizes, but other forms of gambling are banned.

International gaming groups such as Wynn Resorts,MGM and Caesars see Japan as a potentially lucrative market. It is the world’s third-largest economy, and casinos in Tokyo and other cities could attract gamblers from China who have turned the former colony of Macau into the world’s biggest gaming market.

Following the financial success of Macau, other Asian economies are increasingly coming round to the idea of legalised gambling.

Since they opened in 2009, Singapore’s two casinos generated gaming revenues of $5.9bn in 2011, according to Citibank, just behind the $6.1bn earned by casinos in Las Vegas.

Singapore estimates that casinos contribute 1.5-2 per cent of gross domestic product, with gambling also generating new revenues through taxes levied on gaming, amounting to 2.2 per cent of total government operating revenue.

The lawmakers’ group said casinos should be allowed in smaller Japanese cities as well as the major centres of Tokyo and Osaka, which have been seen as the most likely locations for Japan’s first facilities.

The liberalisation initiative dovetails with a broader deregulation programme being pursued by Shinzo Abe, prime minister. Casino legalisation could be implemented as part of a rollout of “strategic zones” for local deregulation that form part of the prime minister’s growth strategy.

Though the lawmakers group is composed of members of four ruling and opposition parties, the proposed bill could still face opposition, both from moral campaigners and groups representing entrenched non-casino gambling industries.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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