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Japan Legalizes Las Vegas-Style Casinos

Country Passes Legislation To Create Potential $40B Market


Japan ParliamentAfter years of debate, Japan legalized full-fledged casinos on Thursday in an effort to boost tourism and potentially create a commercial gambling market equivalent to the one in the United States.

“To us, the opportunity is thoroughly Japanese and thoroughly delicious,” American casino developer Steve Wynn said in a statement after the news.

Separate legislation must be passed to hash out the details of the plan to bring Las Vegas-style gambling to the island nation. The Olympics are coming to Tokyo in 2020, and there was once a push to legalize casinos in time to have them open by then. Despite missing out on that opportunity, Japan is eyeing a casino gambling market worth $40 billion.

The U.S. commercial casino market was $40 billion last year, but that doesn’t include tribal casinos, which generate about $30 billion in gaming revenue each year.

Several of the top American casino developers, including Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands, have tentative plans for pitching casino projects in Japan. The American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s top lobbying group in Washington, D.C., issued a statement following Japan’s decision.

“The passage of legislation in Japan that makes possible the development of integrated resorts is truly historic," said AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman. "After decades of study, it is clear that the expansion of our industry in Japan will produce many of the same results it has in the United States: growth in jobs, tax revenues for community services, increased travel and tourism from domestic and foreign visitors — and vast economic expansion. As progress continues, the American Gaming Association looks forward to providing partnership and support to Japan’s cultural, business and civic leaders.”

The cities of Yokohama, Osaka and Tokyo are considered favorites to get a casino.

The legislation in Japan wasn’t without its critics. Opponents tried again this week to delay the bill. According to a report from Bloomberg, a survey from public broadcaster NHK found that only 12 percent of respondents thought Japan should have casinos.

Gambling is largely prohibited in Japan, but racetrack-like betting and gambling on the pinball-like game of pachinko are legal.

Tags: Japan