The Japanese Office of Integrated Resort Regime Promotion, known as the IR Promotion Secretariat, has delivered a report setting out how its recommendations as to how the new casino sector in Japan should be run. This body, made up of civil servants, has drawn on the example of Singapore’s integrated resorts as a reference.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including:
• There should be an upper limit on the size of the casino floor.
• Limits on the number of resorts and each resort to have only one casino.
• Money collected from a gross gaming revenue tax to be divided between central government and the municipalities hosting casino resorts.
• Visits by locals to be limited and an entry fee for Japanese nationals to be paid. Officials said that the “My Number Card” system should be adopted for entry but, as GBGC reported at World Gaming Executive Summit in Barcelona, only 9% of Japanese have the card.
• Japanese nationals will only be able to purchase chips with cash, but foreigners can use credit cards. Casinos will not be able to have an ATM.
• The integrated resort to feature the following key elements: casino, conventions space, recreational areas such as shopping, restaurants, sports, and hotel accommodation.
• Japanese nationals must be over 20 years of age to gain admittance.
Although some observers have been critical of the proposals and have said some operators may withdraw if the conditions are too onerous, GBGC believes there is still a lot to like about the resorts.
With all gambling legislation, there is often reticence on the part of the public (also known as the electorate) and thus politicians. An example of this situation was seen in the UK with the proposal in the 2005 Gambling Act to expand the casino sector and permit a “regional casino”. The plans were later reduced and the regional casino scrapped after widespread protests from the media and Church. The cautious approach by Japan should be welcomed because at least it will go some way to assuage the fears of those that do not want the resorts.
Public opinion in Japan is certainly against the casinos. A recent Jiji News Agency opinion poll reported that 66.8% of those interviewed did not want a casino in their locality.
Although some of the proposed licence conditions may seem onerous there are some good aspects. Purchasing chips for cash is no bad thing because people understand the value of cash whereas when the gambler spends without seeing the money on credit cards a false sense of value follows. But the best thing about the proposals is the split in tax revenues between the central government and local government. With local government having a revenue interest in the resorts’ success, they will have the resources to counter any negative effects, and they have an incentive to promote the tourism that the resorts will encourage.
Although operators may want a menu of liberal legislation they should remember that a lot of Japanese do not want integrated resort casinos. It is better to have their fears countered with reasonable legislation and for the casinos to come to fruition rather than not at all.
By Warwick Bartlett