Imagine for a minute, a completely different casino experience. Replace the canapÃ©s and prosecco with fresh sushi and Japanese sake, served right at the blackjack or poker table. After a marathon gambling session, you return to your suite, not to a fluffy robe but to a stunning kimono.
This little thought adventure can soon become a reality for gamblers, following the excellent news that Japan has become one of the latest countries to approve casino play.
Competition and Opportunity
The legislative body for Japan is known as the Diet and casino operators are optimistic that their players will soon be able to gamble in the land of the rising sun, following the change in attitude towards casino play.
This shift in position is particularly of interest to operators conducting business in Macau, geographically the closest gambling hub to Japan. The development means both heightened competition in the region as well as a huge opportunity for new investment.
A Draw for Chinese Players
Preliminary analyses suggest that the Japanese gambling market could be worth as much as $40 billion annually. That’s some $10 billion more lucrative than the market in Macau was in 2015.
Because of its fascinating culture and proximity to mainland China, analysts believe that high rolling Chinese players will be interested in checking out this new gaming location. What’s more, the Japanese themselves have a strong gambling culture of their own already!
Japan’s Gambling Culture
If you haven’t spotted the Japanese high rollers in gambling hubs like Singapore, Vegas or Macau, a single visit to Tokyo will definitely be enough to convince you of this. Just step inside one of the many panchinko parlours. Pachinko is a game that looks kind of like a hybrid between a slot machine and pinball.
The loud clattering you’ll hear is the sound of many small metal balls falling through the game. Players collect those balls, which are then traded for tokens and then traded again for money with operators outside the parlour.
It may be a long road from the win to the cashing out but the multi-step process was what it took to convince Japanese authorities that pachinko did not involve gambling.
There is plenty of enthusiasm towards this turnaround from the Japanese authorities. Pachinko king Kazuo Okada has, according to Forbes, aspired to create his own casino in Japan.
Every large casino operator in the gambling world is champing at the bit to stake their claim in a newly casino-friendly Japan — MGM Resorts International has said as much, reportedly having set aside some $10 billion to create a casino/resort combo in one of Japan’s major cities. The Hard Rock franchise has also expressed interest.
As for operators in Macau, the reception of this news has been mixed. Some are hoping that a nascent casino scene in Japan will send serious players back to Macau, which already has a large and well-developed casino community.
Other operators may be a little less optimistic, particularly in light of analysts’ projections that a Japanese casino hub is considered ‘the Holy Grail’. Time will tell.