Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Casinos In Japan - An Assessment

This was considered unimaginable 15 years ago, but a group from LDP finally managed to push through the new bill. The new bill proposes allowing large-scale projects that will combine casinos with hotel, shopping and conference facilities. Attracting tourists is one of the key economic policies of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and supporters say these developments will bolster the country's flagging economy and help support tourism after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The law urges the government to prepare legislation within one year to deal with problems connected with casino resorts, including gambling addiction and ways to prevent the involvement of organized crime groups.

Likelihood To Go All The Way: Despite a 2-1 disapproval by the public, the likelihood of this plan to come to fruition is very high. As you know to even get passed the Lower House would have required a lot, a lot of stamp signatures and collusion. Hiroyuki Hosoda, head of the main pro-casino parliamentary group and one of three casino proponents recently named to top LDP spots - is the key reason why as long as LDP is around and in power, this will get through. Japan's international tourism arrivals was 19.7m in 2015... compared to 30m for Macau and 15m for Singapore - so safe to say, the tourism angle will push the deal through.

Beneficiaries: Although the top operators' share prices went up slightly on the news, there are really only two serious contenders for the two casinos. Sands and Genting, fullstop. Why? Balance sheet strength (very important to the Japanese).GENS has cited potential passing of the Japan integrated resorts bill as one of its main reasons to sell its Jeju casino stake and get back S$588 million ($413.60 million) of capital. The other reason has to be the "Singapore experience" - which the Japanese can see, watch and follow. They would have liked the detailed planning, great execution, good rules to govern and restrict local population from over-gambling. They will probably frown on the Vegas experience - too gaudy, too bawdy and anything goes. They would have frowned at the Macau experience as well - uncontrolled chaos, overbuilding, soul-less, not family oriented enough, only bringing in "real hard core gamblers" (when they really want a more holistic family thing).

Local Beneficiaries:  Fuji Media, Tokyotokeiba, machine makers Sega Sammy and Konami Holdings Corp, as well H.I.S. Co Ltd  - a major travel agency jockeying to develop a casino in southern Japan. Property developers such as Mitsui Fudosan and Tokyo Tatemono.

The KEY:  In things like these, it is what ISN'T said that is more important. In order for Sands and Genting to nail the deal - its the partners they go with. The committee will have a handful of "important enough" local partners on their list, but will probably not enunciate them. It is up to the two to guess. It is always important for the Japanese to "balance the scales", i.e. who loses out in this new development should be "compensated somewhat. Currently the pachinko gaming has the biggest pull in gambling plus horse racing. Will need to "appease" the two. How big is pachinko gambling you say ... in 2015 it was approximately US$190bn.

The other key is selecting the location/partner - should not be near major cities, but accessibly via bullet trains/express rail because with 19.7m annual tourists a year, this will boom towards 30-40m a years when it actually opens, hence the need to divert. Plus it should not be near Disney's two resorts.

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