SINGAPORE May 30 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe is set to tour Singapore's two lavish casino resorts on
Friday as his home country toys with the idea of liberalizing
casino gambling to boost tourism and attract investment.
Japan, home to 128 million people and the world's third
largest economy, is widely seen as a prize market for casino
operators due to its affluent population and close proximity to
wealthy Asian gamblers in the region.
Brokerage CLSA estimates Japan could be the world's third
biggest gambling market after Macau and the United States,
raking in revenues of at least $40 billion annually and with
many more years of growth before it starts to mature.
Abe, who has so far remained silent on the issue of casino
liberalization, will visit Marina Bay Sands, the three pronged
waterfront resort built by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson's
Las Vegas Sands and the sprawling Resorts World Sentosa,
owned by Genting Singapore.
Japan has been deliberating opening casinos for more than a
decade but the chances have never been higher that the country
will move to liberalise casino gambling. While parliament is
unlikely to pass a bill in the current parliament session which
ends next month, lawmakers are hopeful it will go through later
in the year.
Lawmakers supporting the casino bill are aiming to pass it
in the fall extraordinary session, political and industry
sources said on Friday.
"It's logistically difficult for it to pass in the current
session," one political source said, while adding that
supporters of the bill were still hoping to start parliamentary
debate next month. "I would say it's highly likely to pass in
The same source saw little likelihood legislation would be
delayed until next year, which could leave too little time to
build the resorts in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
If the current bill passes, debate will move on to a second
bill concerning concrete regulations, which proponents hope can
be passed in 2016.
International casino companies including Las Vegas Sands,
Genting, MGM Resorts and Melco Crown Entertainment
have all been trying to position themselves ahead of
the bill passing. Genting Singapore has set up 8 subsidiaries in
Japan for investment holding, leisure and related businesses,
the company said on Tuesday in a notice to the Singapore stock
Adelson has said he would spend $10 billion on developing a
casino resort while rivals have announced investment of around
$5 billion for a casino in either Tokyo or Osaka.
Singapore's two integrated resorts which combine casinos
with dining, entertainment, and convention business are the
preferred model Japan would emulate, lawmakers have said.
Marina Bay Sands, which cost $5.4 billion, has helped to
boost convention business in Singapore, while Resorts World
Sentosa, which houses a Universal Studios theme park and a large
scale aquarium, has helped to lure record numbers of tourists
since opening in 2010.
Industry executives have said in private that a Marina Bay
Sands type resort which lies in close proximity to Singapore's
financial district would be a good fit for Tokyo while a more
leisure focused resort like Sentosa would be better suited to
Osaka or a regional city.
(Reporting by Farah Master and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Raju