Gambling analysts had predicted that there was a strong chance that Japan could pass a bill that would legalize the casino industry in 2016 as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his LDP government were in favor of legalizing integrated casino resorts. Legislators went ahead and passed the bill last week even though there was a lot of protests from the opposition.

Legislators are yet to determine how many casino licenses will be issued in the first round and which cities will be home to these integrated casino resorts. Fitch Ratings recently released a report stating that Tokyo and Osaka are most likely to receive the first two licenses and believes that that legislators are likely to come up with similar gaming regulation that Singapore follows. This will include a limited number of casino licenses, charging locals an entry fee and having strict money laundering regulations.

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Even before Japan could legalize the casino industry, major gaming operators such as the Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts had already met with Japanese legislators to express interest in developing multi-billion dollar resorts in the country. The Sands Corp and MGM Resorts have both stated that they will invest close to $10 billion to develop an integrated resort. Each integrated resort is expected to have around 500 games tables and up to 3,000 slot machines.

Morgan Stanley expects gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Japan to hit $20 billion before 2025 estimating that the integrated resort in Tokyo could generate around $4 billion and Osaka around $2 billion.

In a statement, Morgan Stanley said “Japan will have to pass the implementation bill which may take 6 to 12 months and then undergo the RFC (Request for Concept) and RFP (Request for Proposal) process, which could at least take 6 months. This pushes the opening of the first casino to at least 2021/22.”

Asian Gambling operators are also looking to compete for the two casino licenses as Genting Singapore, Paradise Co Ltd and Melco Crown Entertainment have all expressed interest in getting into the Japanese market. The Japanese gambling industry is expected to turn into one of the biggest gambling hubs in the world and could eventually pose a threat to even Macau.

Macau is currently the biggest gambling capital in the world and gaming regulators in Macau recently confirmed that they are keeping a close watch on Japan and the gaming regulation it will introduce in order to be prepared for future competition.

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