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LAST WORD 66

Doors open, doors close Sharon Singleton

Managing Editor, AGB

It’s been another active year in Asia’s casino industry, from new openings in Macau, to a new government in the Philippines through to new legislation finally emerging from Vietnam. However, it’s the potential reopening of a door to allow casinos in Japan that’s perhaps drawing the most attention right now.

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fter appearing to be definitively on the time Taiwan. back burner, the possibility of the passage A framework bill that would allow gambling on of framework legislation before the end outlying islands has been stalled in the country’s of the year has lurched back to life, with parliament, with the ruling Democratic Progressive experts saying they are quietly optimistic that this Party firmly opposed to casinos. There had been time it will pass. a slim chance that an October referendum among Sceptics will say they are not holding their breath residents on the island of Penghu could have helped and we have come this far down the road before. In to break the deadlock. Some argued that if Penghu late 2014, hopes were dashed when Prime Minister islanders joined those of Matsu in approving casinos, Shinzo Abe, who favors integrated resorts to boost the central government may have been pressed into tourism, called a snap election. action. The move came amidst political However, that wasn’t to infighting over his efforts to happen, with Penghu rejecting reboot the struggling Japanese the potential for IRs for a second THE MINIMUM economy and, although not time. Although much more directly linked, hopes for the INVESTMENT IS HALF limited in terms of potential casino bill dissolved along with OF THE COMMITMENT than the giant prize of Japan, parliament. it was nevertheless seen as an REQUIRED IN PRIOR However, a landslide July interesting addition to Asia’s election win for Abe’s Liberal VERSIONS OF THE BILL, gambling jurisdictions. Democratic Party, the promotion Another long-running BUT IS STILL A HEFTY of key gambling figures in the regulatory saga also looks as LDP and a relatively uncrowded SUM though it may be on the verge parliamentary schedule mean of resolution. After countless that casinos may now finally drafts, the content of which get the green light. alarmed many foreign investors, If the bill is reintroduced...and one senior politician Vietnam appears to be on the brink of pushing out says the likelihood of that is 100 percent...it’s almost its new casino legislation. certain to pass, given Abe’s renewed political strength. As widely expected, it will bring down the Casino majors were quick to reaffirm their interest minimum investment required to $2 billion and will in what is expected to become Asia’s second-largest allow locals to gamble on a three-year trial basis. The gaming market after Macau. MGM Resorts has said sting in the tail is they will only be allowed into two it may be prepared to invest as much as $10 billion, resorts at disparate ends of the country, leaving out potentially through a real estate investment trust Asian Coast Development’s Grand Ho Tram, which structure. Rival Las Vegas Sands has previously also some had expected to form part of any pilot scheme. pledged a similar amount. The minimum investment is half of the commitment Despite the interest, estimates vary widely as to the required in prior versions of the bill, but is still a hefty potential size of the market, which will come down sum. The bill also envisages a $1 billion disbursement to just how many licenses are allowed and where they before a casino license can be granted. Many analysts can operate. The frequently cited figure from CLSA have said that may be too high for the market, especially of $40 billion once all players are up and running if IRs are not located close to major metropolitan seems a very best-case scenario. areas and locals aren’t permitted entry. As often seems to be the case in Asia, as one door While, a step in the right direction, the bill may still stands a chance of opening, another slams shut...this fall short of its aim to spur tourism and investment.

Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2016


AGBriefings November 2016