The world's top casino operators are jockeying for a take in a vast but untapped market as Japan moves closer to an overhaul of its strict gambling laws to lure rich Asian tourists and boost its economy.
Japan would be a latecomer to a gambling boom across the region, which is looking to Las Vegas-style super casinos to entice more tourists, with two huge complexes springing up in Singapore to take on the Chinese enclave of Macau.
Almost half of the lower house of parliament -- including some opposition lawmakers -- supports the general idea of legalising casinos, said Toru Mihara, adviser to the LDP's casino study group.
"If we can create legal structures within one or two years to come, maybe in 2012 casinos in Japan will start to operate," he told AFP in an interview.
2012? That's five years from now! I mean, I'll take it, but I was hoping for something sooner. Can't you guys, you know, pass the law and then set up some converted warehouse casino for us degenerate gamblers for a year or two while they build the Wynn Tokyo? We're not that picky.
This article, however, paints a brighter picture.
Driven by fiercer regulation and a consumer credit crunch that has directly hit pachinko’s heaviest players, key segments of the industry are expected to contract by as much as 50 per cent over the next two years. Industry experts forecast that about a third of Japan’s 15,000 pachinko parlours — deafeningly loud, smoke-filled caverns where customers lose themselves for hours — may close.
But the imminent pachinko crisis will “vastly accelerate” plans by the Japanese Government to legalise casinos, one of the industry’s leading figures told The Times. To compete with Macau and other Asian cities where casino gaming is set for astronomic growth, Tokyo and other big Japanese cities may have their first Las Vegas-style casinos within three years.
Three years! Now we're talking!
I don't play pachinko, I don't get pachinko, so I don't know the market. But I doubt that hard core pachinko players are just going to up and quit the game because some of the big jackpot machines are outlawed. Likewise, pachinko operators and game manufacturers aren't going to just go, "oh well, guess we can't make those machines anymore. We'll go back to the old lower-payout machines and lose our customers." People can be very creative when they're trying to find a new way to separate you from your money. I don't know what they'll do, but I'm sure they'll do something to keep pachinko players relatively happy and spending their idle hours firing ball bearings up and watching them drop, hoping to make some money off of it.
The guy who made the quote is the head of Aruze, and a partner with Steve Wynn, so he stands to make a ton of money opening a casino here and filling it with his gambling machines. So he's not the most unbiased observer of the market. But I'll still be happy to see him right.