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If You’re Japanese, the Only Place to Gamble in a Land-Based Casino is Overseas

October 10, 2014 by  

If You’re Japanese, the Only Place to Gamble in a Land-Based Casino is Overseas
It looks like Japanese gamblers who want to experience the thrill of playing casino games in a real land-based casino will still have to go abroad to do so, even though there are plans in place for Japan’s first casino to be built and opened in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Photo credit: Szeke). 

At the moment a casino study bill is being debated by the Japanese government and if passed, it would revise the Japanese constitution so that the development of casinos could be permitted. Assuming that the current bill is passed, a subsequent bill would then address all the nitty gritty details of casino licensing and regulation.

As it stands, the bill that has been drafted by the Integrated Resorts Group will limit access to the future casinos to foreign visitors only. If Japanese citizens were to be permitted entry to the casinos in future years, a separate law will need to be enacted. There has been no indication from the Japanese legislators on how much time will pass between the first casino’s doors being opened and Japanese nationals being allowed to pass through them and play at the slots machines and gaming tables.

Although Japanese nationals have to travel overseas to play in land-based casinos, the online casino industry is booming in the country. Established overseas operated businesses such as 32Red, Royal Vegas Casino and Spin Palace Casino have a strong following in Japan. Even though online gambling is officially prohibited in the country, there isn’t much that’s done to prevent players from playing their favourite games on foreign casino websites. So, it’s easy enough for a Japanese national to play online slots at 32Red.com or at any other site that is hosted outside of Japan. Some of the foreign sites have now also made it possible for players to choose to have the casino display info in Japanese, though many are still only available in English.

The restriction to foreign nationals only being allowed to enter future Japanese casinos was put in place in response to concerns from the Komeito party (part of the government coalition) that casinos could have a social harm effect on Japanese citizens. The majority Liberal Democrat Party had suggested that any Japanese nationals could be required to pay a casino entry levy of $45 in order to mitigate potential social harm issues, but this suggestion was not deemed to be acceptable by the Komeito party. However, there are fears that limiting entry to foreign nationals only will mean that the new casinos will be unable to turn a profit. And from a foreign investment point of view, those international casino firms who might have been ready to invest billions in developing Japanese casinos might find the restriction on Japanese nationals off-putting.

So, at least for the next few years, it’s likely that any Japanese gambler who wants to experience the thrills of playing in land-based casinos will still have to plan that kind of activity into their vacation time. In 2013, according to figures from GLS Research prepared for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 20% of visitors to Vegas travelled from overseas to be there, a significant increase on the 14% of overseas visitors in 2009, the 16% in 2011 and the 17% in 2012. These figures don’t break down the foreign visitor percentages into nationalities, but you do tend to see people from all over the world in every one of the big casinos in Vegas. However, the vast majority of visitors to Las Vegas were from the western United States (52%) and 33% of them came from California. And if these figures are anything to go by, the Japanese legislators would do well to change the ruling so that they could make their future casinos profitable through allowing the domestic gambling market to blossom.

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