Asia

Research Brief: Paving the Regulatory Future for IRs in Japan – May 2021

As the world continues to face numerous challenges and rebounds from the pandemic, most countries around the world remain closed to outsiders. Japan and others throughout Asia are trying to find a way to reopen but have had to implement new restrictions and emergency orders. In Japan, these have been most recently extended until the end of May in numerous parts of the country. This is further complicated by the upcoming Olympics and the inability to host foreigner visitors to the market. Olympic-sized problems surround this event in terms of not just the general logistics of hosting the Games, which were supposed to be a shining moment for this proud country, but also the public sentiment that is growing against hosting the games. A recent online petition had hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for the cancellation of the event, with at least nine of Japan’s 47 prefectural governors concurring with the petition. These issues further cloud Japan’s recovery in general terms and with regard to the hospitality industry, especially on the tourism goals established by the government.

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2020 Trends: Japan

Like the rest of the world, the development of integrated resorts in Japan has been significantly stalled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Japan is just beginning to reemerge as it is now starting to allow foreigners back into the country. While many speculated that 2020 would be a robust year for the integrated resorts, it looks like Covid, like the rest of the world, will push IRs back into 2021 as things finally start to move down the road.

Earlier this year, Japan transitioned from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepping down for health reasons to the current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Suga, who was Abe’s top lieutenant, has been a strong proponent of the integrated resorts initiative. His ascendancy was the ideal outcome in terms of the succession from Abe. Suga will not be a caretaker prime minister and wants to leave his own stamp over the next year coming into a fresh election next September.

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Research Brief: Japan’s IR Opportunity

Given these unprecedented and uncertain times, many questions continue to be raised as to how the process of integrated resorts in Japan may be affected by the ever-changing events surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As seen by government actions around the globe, this virus has not only affected Japan, but the rest of Asia, the United States, the Americas, and the world. China is experiencing a second wave of the virus not only in Wuhan, which just recently updated its case counts, but throughout the country. This has extended over the past few weeks to other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, which just extended its lock down by 14 days, and other parts of Asia that were not initially hot spots but have extended as conditions have changed.

Japan’s integrated resort selection process has come into the crosshairs between numerous issues including the virus, the now-2021 Olympics, the upcoming World Expo in 2025, and the microcosm of Japan’s political process. While tourism has been halted across the globe, Japan will once again be on a path to achieve the tourism goals set by Prime Minister Abe; goals which are achievable with the introduction of integrated resorts once the pandemic subsides. The robust opportunity remains available for Japan to reach these goals and bring in tens of billions of dollars in investment between the three licenses, as well as job creation and other economic benefits that go along with them.

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The China Syndrome: Why the PRC’s impact on gaming throughout Asia is dependent upon many issues

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to emerge as an economic and political superpower in the world, and its actions have a direct influence on the gaming market in Asia. This goes
well beyond the borders of Macau, SAR (Special Administrative Region) that nearly 20 years ago opened up for the first time to foreign casino operators beyond Stanley Ho’s monopoly.

The reach of the PRC permeates both economically and politically into key emerging markets such as the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea, and other markets throughout the Far East (including Northeast and Southeast Asia).

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Social Safeguards: How Singapore set a new standard in addressing responsible gambling

As Singapore continues to serve as the model for IR development, it has also become one of the current models to address the promotion of responsible gaming measures and casino exclusion policies for its two integrated resorts.

At the time of inception, these cutting-edge initiatives allowed for a different model for individuals to be excluded from the casino, limited the floor size of the facilities, created a publicentity to promote responsible gaming efforts, and created partnerships with operators to work with the government in creating an environment of responsible gaming. It also introduced a casino levy for locals with the option of a daily or yearly fee.

The two operators in the market, Las Vegas Sands (Marina Bay Sands) and Genting Singapore (Resorts World Sentosa), initially had to develop internal responsible gaming education and training programs. These initiatives have continued to evolve over the course of time as more research has become available and the market has matured. The programs include an initial and annual training that offers employees the ability to understand the signs of problem gambling, as well as how to respond and support a guest. It also includes support in the form of high level specialists that offer a higher level of knowledge on responsible gaming measures and how best to handle a guest that may need further assistance.

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Research Brief: Japan IR Timeline Update

Late last month, many stakeholders following the Japan Integrated Resort process believed they were thrown a curve ball, following reports stating that the process would be delayed by a year without the appointment of the Casino Management Commission and other cabinet and ministerial positions. However, the delay will likely not be as long as initially thought but would only be a minor delay in the marathon for integrated resorts in Japan.

First and foremost, this process is still in its infancy. While stalwarts of the process have been trying to get legislation passed for over twenty years, the race continues to move at a moderate pace as the government begins its official process to form the Commission and the 300-plus items that still need to be officially decided. It was thought that the Commission would likely be appointed before the end of the current regular session of the Diet. However, this part of the process has been delayed because of the upcoming elections that have been planned for the Upper House of the Diet. While it has not been confirmed that a double election would occur in July 2019, there is also the potential that a snap election in the Lower House could be held at the same time.

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Macau: The Future Beyond the VIP

Fifteen years ago, on May 18, 2004, Las Vegas Sands Corp. opened Sands Macao and changed the course of casino gaming in the region.

Macau was once considered a secondary gaming market that catered to a small base of customers from Hong Kong and Guangdong, China. However, Sands Macao and subsequent entrants demonstrated that by providing high-quality gaming, dining and lodging environments, markets will respond.

In the case of Macau, markets responded enthusiastically. In 2005, the city’s casinos generated $5.9 billion in gaming revenue, and by 2018, the industry had generated $37.9 billion.

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Crystal Ball Gazing

Predicting the future of any industry has always been an inexact science. It requires an examination of historical trends, possible changes in public policy, the application of a variety of macro-economic theories, the unlikely entry of a disruption industry that could emerge as a worthy competitor, and a substantial amount of guesswork.

The problem is, when it comes to Macau, more often than not the soothsayers have been unable to predict the future.

When predictions are made, word spreads quickly. The number of media outlets devoted to the casino industry has increased and amplified the distribution of news. Casinos are now part of
the 24-hour news cycle; the industry has its own forums, dedicated writers and avid readership.

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10 Trends – Rating the Rising Sun

Japan may look like it will be a sleeping giant in 2019, but the upcoming year may prove to be the most critical year in Japan’s march toward integrated resort development. Japan took a major step forward this year with the passage of the IR Implementation Bill and the Basic Bill on Gambling Addictions Countermeasures.

Next year will be one of the more critical years in the process as Japan contemplates the largest land-based gaming opportunity since Singapore in the mid-2000s. While outside observers may not see significant progress, a regulatory framework will be established in 2019 that will likely include more than 300 regulations. These regulations will determine the true market potential and scope of Japan’s three integrated resorts.

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