Anticipating gambling bill, Konami plans Japan casino investment
* Aims to partner with casino operators, take minority stake
* Japan casino proponents aim to pass legislation soon
TOKYO May 28 (Reuters) - Japanese gaming company Konami Corp said it was planning to invest in casinos in anticipation of legislation to legalise gambling and help create an entertainment and resort market some estimate to be worth over $40 billion.
Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers are trying to pass legislation allowing the development of casino resorts in Japan, although time is running out for a bill to be approved in the current parliamentary session ending next month.
Konami said it would set up a subsidiary, once a casino bill is passed, through which it would take a minority stake in casinos in partnership with operators.
Companies like Melco Crown Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp have expressed interest in investing in Japanese casinos.
The country is one of the world's last untapped gaming markets and broker CLSA says it could become a leading gambling destination with annual revenue over $40 billion.
Supporters of the casino bill want the first resorts to open by 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games.
Konami sells game software and "pachinko" pinball machines in Japan, but also distributes slot machines overseas, experience that Konami executive Noriaki Yamaguchi said would help it partner with casino operators looking to enter the Japanese market.
"We can use that network we have built as a machine manufacturer to take part in a consortium here in Japan," he told Reuters. (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Emi Emoto; Editing by Matt Driskill)