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Japan could be the third largest gambling market

May 13, 2014

The Japanese government appears to be seriously considering llegalizing Casino gambling to attract more visitors to Japan as part of its overall economic growth strategy. Lawmakers who support legalizing casino gambling hope to see initial draft legislation this year, with the first resort opening by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games.

Japan is one of the world's last untapped gaming markets and could become the third-largest gambling destination after Macau and the United States. According to broker CLSA, with a dozen or so facilities Japan could generate approximatly $40bn in revenues a year ? compared with about $51bn a year in Macau and $7bn in Singapore.

Major city and local governments including Tokyo, Hokkaido, Osaka and Okinawa have expressed intent to put up casino resorts to attract more tourists and jobs. However, most people close to the debate believe a maximum of three casinos will be licensed at first. Osaka plans to invite operators to build a casino on a plot of reclaimed land on Osaka Bay, edging out Tokyo in the race to attract global gaming firms to set up the country's first gambling resort.

Last week, Reuters reported two U.S. billionaires are betting on Japanese major cities, Tokyo and Osaka, to be the first in Japan to open casino resorts - once the government gives the go-ahead to legalize gambling. Chicago real estate mogul Neil Bluhm, who owns casinos in Pennsylvania, Chicago and Niagara Falls, believes Osaka has the kind of flexible local government that will help drive this project. He think the whole process - from approval to construction - in Tokyo will be more complex, more time-consuming, and more expensive. Vegas gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson, four years his senior, is putting his weight behind a Tokyo flagship resort ,while Bluhm has set his sights on Osaka. He sees Tokyo as the main prize and has pledged to spend $10 billion as Japan opens up to legal gambling - an offer he says his rivals can't match.

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