Saturday, April 14, 2007

Japan Casinos (Revisited)

Nearly a year ago, I posted about the Japanese government investigating opening casino-style gambling in Japan. What's up with that?

Hell if I know. I haven't heard squat.

The investigatory committee came back and presented their report which apparently said about what everyone knew it would. Casino gambling would bring in a lot of visitors and tax dollars, and also help supporting businesses. But there were concerns about rises in crime in those areas, as well as possible involvement of organized crime groups.

Since then? Nothing.

Well, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Japanese government to make a quick decision. On this issue or any issue. There could also be serious opposition to casino gambling behind the scenes by those companies that could stand to lose business to casino gambling - pachinko parlors and race tracks. I don't know about the tracks, but everyone assumes the pachinko business is controlled by the yakuza, so they might not be too keen on seeing casinos opened up if they can't get a share.

I just hope that eventually (sooner would be better than later), someone will decide to actually press the issue forward. Maybe after the Macau casinos continue to rake in money hand over fist. Maybe after the Chinese government reports on the extra billions of dollars they've added to their budgets from the casinos. Eventually will someone look at this and say, "Hey... we should get in on this."

The casino companies are also continuing to lobby, hoping to expand even further into Asia. Japan has a strong economy and they can spend money with the best of them when they get in the mood. Macau is still a bit too far away for all but the most serious of gamblers - at that distance, you might as well spend an extra couple hours on the plane and just head to Vegas.

Las Vegas Sands is lobbying to open casinos in Japan, I found in this article.

Las Vegas Sands is lobbying to introduce casinos in Japan and is mulling a development along the Mediterranean Sea, he says. ``I'd like to do another Las Vegas in Europe,'' he says, adding that it needs to be in a warm climate. ``We'll look aggressively for opportunities.''

"He" is Sheldon Adelson, and if he's successful in getting Japan to open up to casino gambling, he'll be my new best friend. I'd love to visit the Venetian in Tokyo. I wonder if my point card would work?

The MGM would also not want to be left out, according to this article. (Unfortunately it's not dated and it could be pretty old.)

According the MGM, they are not looking to stop at just two casino projects, especially if Japan passes its pro-gambling legislation. The revenue which Macau generated from its casinos already surpassed that of Las Vegas and it is turning to the most desirable place in the world for building a casino.

What about Steve Wynn? If Sheldon's trying to get into Japan, I'd have thought he'd be jostling with him for the chance to get in there first. It doesn't seem so in this article.

Wynn also noted that he and Japanese gaming device maker Kazuo Okada had agreed that neither would sell his shares without written consent from the other, and that each would have the first right to buy shares if the other wants to sell.

Each owns about 24 percent of Wynn Resorts shares, and each will make about $147 million from a special $6 per share distribution the company announced last week.

I expect Wynn to use the distribution to increase his stake in the company and take the combined Wynn-Okada ownership stake above 50 percent.

Wynn also said he had recently been approached by Australian publishing and gaming executive James Packer about possible Asian development opportunities. When I asked Wynn whether those opportunities might be in Japan, Wynn had a ready answer.

"No, I already have the best possible partner in Japan," he said, referring, of course, to Okada.

Actually, on rereading that, it reads like Wynn would of course stick with his current partners in Japan for any new casino deals, instead of taking on a new partner from Australia. Makes sense.

Anyhow, I just hope they get on with it. Let the casino companies in and start building up Odaiba to be the Macau of Japan, or else decide that they're going to stick with the current anti-gambling stance. At least then I could relax about it. This waiting is killing me.

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