With the Japanese legislature apparently on the verge of legalizing casino gambling, developers are racing to create plans for the country's first casino resorts.
This week Mitsui Fudosan Co., Japan's largest developer, announced plans to work with Fuji Media Holdings and builder Kajima Corp on a casino development for Tokyo. The companies want to build a hotel, conference center and a casino complex on land in Odaiba, near Tokyo Bay, Mitsui executives told analysts this week.
Many forms of gambling are already legal in Japan, including pachinko, the addictive pinball-style parlor game. Pachinko and games like it generate $192 billion in wagers a year, according to industry estimates.
Groups have been lobbying for casino gaming for years and now a bill legalizing gaming in certain zones appears to have bipartisan support. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reportedly among the backers of the plan.
"This is the best chance we have ever had for casinos in Japan, and I want to make sure this law passes," Takeshi Iwaya, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said at a conference in September.
U.S. gaming giants Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. have acknowledged they are scouting the market for potential partners on casino projects.
"We are starting to think through designs and master plans and partners we think would be most appropriate and really starting to invest more heavily in this effort," Steven Tight, president for international development for Las Vegas-based Caesars, told Bloomberg earlier this year.
Mori Building is also developing plans for a Tokyo casino and resort, Reuters reports. A Mori spokesperson declined to comment to Reuters, except to say the company supports the legalization of gaming.
Wynn Resorts has been tracking Japan's flirtations with casino gaming for 20 years, chief operating officer Gamal Aziz, recently told the Wall Street Journal.
"We think Japan could be Wynn's biggest opportunity," Mr. Aziz said, but added, "you have to be patient in Japan."