* Japan casino plan has Vegas-style regulators
* Plan aims to shut out "yakuza" gangsters
* Plan would impose stringent 'suitability' checks
* Casino legalisation could pass early 2014
By Nathan Layne
TOKYO, Oct 4 Japan would establish an
independent gaming regulator modelled on the authorities that
police casinos in Las Vegas and Singapore under a draft plan to
legalise gambling in a market seen as potentially the
second-largest in the world.
The policy outline, which was prepared by Japanese lawmakers
who favour casinos and reviewed by Reuters, outlines broad
standards for licensing and regulating casino operators and
After more than a decade of lobbying by lawmakers, a bill to
legalise casino gambling is seen as having a good chance of
passing in the coming months with the business-friendly Liberal
Democratic Party in power and after Tokyo -- a likely casino
host -- won the bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2020.
MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp
, Melco Crown Entertainment and Wynn Resorts
Ltd are among the global operators that have shown
interest in developing a casino resort in Japan.
Among the concerns lawmakers who favour legalising casinos
believe need to be addressed is what measures will be taken to
keep out organised crime, known in Japan as the "yakuza." To
address those concerns, the draft plan calls for the creation of
an agency that would have control over the issuing of licences
and the policing of gaming operations.
"The hurdles to enter the business should be set high. It
should not be easy for anyone to get a licence and participate
in the industry," the policy plan says. "With proper regulation
and enforcement of the law, there is absolutely no reason for
casinos to become hotbeds of criminal activity."
Details of the draft plan have not previously been reported.
The plan also recommends stringent checks on the
"suitability" of the people and businesses involved of the kind
conducted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. For example,
directors and senior executives of licensees in Japan would be
required to provide bank account, credit card, and tax records
for themselves and their families going back 10 years.
As a further safeguard, the agency charged with policing
casinos would be attached to the Cabinet and not part of any
ministry. That is intended to prevent corruption and the
"amakudari" practice of ministry officials retiring to cushy
posts in the industry they once regulated, the draft plan says.
A group of lawmakers, including many from the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, plan to submit an
initial bill to parliament by the end of this year. If it
passes, possibly early next year, the government would have to
come up with concrete regulations within two years to legalise
some casino gambling.
That could mean the first casino resort would open in Japan
by 2019, in time for the Olympics, lawmakers have said.
While the big global gaming operators have shown the most
interest in the major urban hubs of Tokyo and Osaka, there are
more than a dozen smaller cities and towns across Japan lobbying
for the right to develop casino resorts.
According to the draft plan, a transparent bidding process
should be established so that local governments would be on an
equal footing with the big cities.
At the same time, the plan calls for a limit to be put on
how many casinos would be allowed initially so that regulators
can ensure that the new gambling resorts are being run properly.