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Las Vegas Gaming Companies Ready As Japan Legalizes Casinos

Courtesy photo

Bellagio celebrates Japan with a Japanese garden-inspired Conservatory display.

A years-long effort to bring casino gambling to Japan succeeded Thursday as lawmakers there approved legislation that opens up what some see as a $40 billion gaming market.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling party supported the bill as a way to stimulate Japan’s economy and tourism. The legislation sets in motion a regulatory process that would lead to casino development, but not for several years.

“The rhetoric has been that casinos will do the same thing for Japan as they did for Singapore. That is increase tourism, increase the length of visitation, (and) increase the money spent by tourists when they come to Japan,” said Andrew Gellatly, head of global research services for Gambling Compliance, a gaming industry information service. “

International tourism plummeted following the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, and Prime Minister Abe has made restoring it a priority, with development of casino reports part of that effort. Japan hopes to lure Chinese gamblers who currently visit the casinos in Macau and Singapore.

Las Vegas gaming operators Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts all have expressed interest in the market. Japanese companies are expected to partner with casino operators in developing the projects.

The legislation calls for creation of zones for integrated resorts, multi-billion-dollar projects that include hotels, shopping, meeting space, restaurants and entertainment venues along with casinos.

Currently there is limited gaming in the country, including lotteries, sports betting, and ubiquitous pachinko parlors, which are similar to slot joints.

Andrew Gellatly, head of global research services for Gambling Compliance

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.