April 9 (Reuters) - Melco Crown Entertainment will invest at least $5 billion to open a casino in Japan if the country lifts its ban on gambling resorts, The Nikkei said, citing an interview with the company’s top executives.
The Macau-based casino operator is already in talks with several Japanese companies to open a casino in Japan, most likely in a city such as Tokyo or Osaka, Chief Executive Lawrence Ho said.
Japan is widely viewed as a prize market for casino operators due to its wealthy population and proximity to China, home to some of the world’s most-prolific, and richest, gamblers.
Pachinko hall operator Dynam Japan Holdings Co is also in talks with several Asian gaming operators to build a casino in Japan, as the country’s parliament prepares to debate a bill that could legalize gambling resorts for the first time.
Ho said Japan’s latent market for casinos was estimated to be at least $20 billion.
Melco Crown, owned by Australian billionaire James Packer and Hong Kong businessman Lawrence Ho, posted a 52.8 percent rise in full year net profit, boosted by a flood of wealthy Chinese gamblers keen to punt in its glitzy casinos.
The company will also enter the Philippines in the final quarter of 2014, marking its first move abroad, the Nikkei reported. (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bangalore; Editing by Simon Jennings)