The IR (Integrated Resort) industry in Japan has launched a public consultation on proposed regulations for integrated resorts, including the country’s first casinos, with people able to submit comments on the controls until 3 October. Japan remains to develop, though more slowly than casino operators would like. The country has been building its regulatory framework for the resorts, putting together policies and regulations to steer the direction of gambling. In the latest step forward, Japan has tapped two senior officials to organize the creation of a casino administration committee, which will supervise all expansions linked to casino regulations, safety and ethical guidelines for the IR space.
The discussion, which was launched today (3 September) by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, intends to gather views on the proposed regulations, which were agreed by the country’s ruling Cabinet in March this year. This will eventually see licenses for three resorts issued.
They need the resorts to host hotels, conference facilities and exhibition centres, with gambling facilities to cover no more than 3% of each venue’s floorspace. Each must also include cultural facilities such as theatres, music halls, cinemas, museums and restaurants. Ahead of the creation of the new committee, there was a lot of diverse activity going on to help shape Japan’s IR industry. Different ministries had been involved in setting up the requirements for the new group, which will ultimately be an independent body and not under the Cabinet Office.
GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent indicated that the two officials were chosen on July 5, but that no information was disseminated until now. The officials will report to Japan’s Cabinet Office whereas the committee is being established and, eventually, there will be five permanent officials named to the unit. All will have to be approved by the Japanese Parliament, with the selections possibly coming during an extraordinary legislative session to be held this fall.
Though entry to the gambling facilities will be free of cost for visitors, locals must pay a ¥6,000 fee, and under 20 are prohibited from gambling. IR operators will need to secure a casino business license, to construct the casino, then a casino facility service license, which covers the operation of the venue. Applicants will be required to set out a comprehensive business plan for the venue, which must be approved by the country’s casino management board, which will effectively become the national gambling regulator.
They must also develop a plan to make sure a return to the prefecture, through tourism or investment, which will be examined as part of the selection process. Measures to counter the possible harmful effects of gambling, such as addiction, as well as youth protection and measures to avoid criminal interference must be drawn up too.
The project comes to increase tourism in Japan, with a view to having 60m visitors enter the country by 2030, spending ¥15tn. There will initially be three IR licenses issued in Japan. Following the passage of the integrated resorts bill in the Japanese Diet in July 2018, the earliest one of the facilities could open is expected to be 2025. Previously, it was thought that the first three IRs, or at least one of them, would be ready by 2024.
Osaka is set to host the World Expo in 2024 and being able to tie in the launch of a new IR with the global recognition the expo is going to receive was a huge benefit to the launch of Japan’s gambling scene. However, several factors have caused the IR process to move slowly as the country looks to ensure that the industry is well regulated and won’t launch as a free-for-all.
The consultation on the regulations was originally expected to be launched shortly after the Fourth Abe Cabinet approved the regulations in March, with the casino management board to be established by July. The structure of the board has still not yet been announced.
Several eminent international operators have showed an interest in securing an Integrated Resort licence in Japan. MGM Resorts, Hard Rock International, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment are all likely to be part of the bidding process. However, Caesars Entertainment, has reportedly dropped out of the process.
Construction of the resorts is expected to cost upwards to $10bn. Many have already begun to prepare, hoping to get the process moving as quickly as possible once the final decision is made. MGM is plotting a facility in Osaka, with Las Vegas Sands and Wynn favouring Tokyo or Yokohama, according to media reports.