Japan casinos closer to becoming a reality

Japan casinos closer to becoming a reality

June 19, 2018 3:10 AM


Japanese casinos have moved “a major step” closer to becoming a reality as the result of recent legislative action and there may be more action this week in this most important of the untapped markets with global appeal.

Major Nevada companies have been circling this situation looking for investment opportunities but most of them have not had much to say since it has not been clear until now what might result from the myriad discussions that have been going on for years. A few of them are much more open about their thinking.

MGM’s Executive Vice President of Global Affairs Alan Feldman says an “integrated resort” proposal passed the Diet Affairs Committee last week and further action is possible this week in the Diet as the country’s law-making body is known.

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“This is a big step forward,” according to Feldman, who is among the senior executives who have established a nearly full time presence in Japan working to steer the company’s interest in this potentially huge market toward reality. There have been years of discussion about the prospects for gaming there but last week’s committee vote has given casino proponents more grounds for enthusiasm that the resort issue has moved to a previously unseen level.

Feldman believes the potential for a Japanese resort that qualifies as a major travel destination would surpass the appeal of Singapore and could equal the revenue levels now being produced in Macau where there is also an MGM property.

Yes, MGM’s ambitious reach continues during a year when it is preparing to open a Massachusetts casino and fine tune existing properties in Macau and Connecticut. And let’s not forget its huge footprint on the Las Vegas Strip and those properties in Detroit, Mississippi and the Borgata in Atlantic City where it opened a sportsbook last week.

Sports betting was made possible, as we know now by recent Supreme Court action, for all states with an interest and there will be many others, but MGM was the first out of the gate so to speak thanks to the eagerness of New Jersey lawmakers and MGM, the sole owner of the Borgata.

Probably all Jersey casinos will have books of their own but for the moment MGM enjoys the advantage of a huge marketing tool that will suck in customers from the other nearby gambling halls.

“There was a long line when Julius Irving (former NBA star) made the first bet,” a witness to the action told me. This was the day after Gov. Phil Wolf signed the all-important legislation.

But getting back to what is being developed in Japan: Feldman says if the resort plan continues moving forward MGM will be partnering with “well established Japanese companies,” businesses he is not saying more about for the time being.

An important point to keep in mind: MGM is not the only major company with an interest in planting a flag in the Japanese market.

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has already said it would not be unreasonable for his company to spend up to about $10 billion creating a Japanese casino to carry the Sands name. The Pacific Rim market has potential to lure more high limit players in one day than Las Vegas might see in a year. Japanese companies have long shown a lot of enthusiasm for the gaming business. The Dunes and the Aladdin are just two of the Las Vegas resorts that we’re owned by Japanese investors who were not content to simply gamble.

But MGM’s corporate hope is that Japan will provide the chance to continue growing. The company has moved far beyond those days when it was known more for those movies that carried the MGM name.