Reuters – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to tour Singapore’s two lavish casino resorts on Friday as his home country toys with the idea of liberalizing casino gambling to boost tourism and attract investment.
Japan, home to 128 million people and the world’s third largest economy, is widely seen as a prize market for casino operators due to its affluent population and close proximity to wealthy Asian gamblers in the region.
Brokerage CLSA estimates Japan could be the world’s third biggest gambling market after Macau and the United States, raking in revenues of at least $40 billion annually and with many more years of growth before it starts to mature.
Abe, who has so far remained silent on the issue of casino liberalization, will visit Marina Bay Sands, the three pronged waterfront resort built by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands and the sprawling Resorts World Sentosa, owned by Genting Singapore.
Japan has been deliberating opening casinos for more than a decade but the chances have never been higher that the country will move to liberalise casino gambling. While parliament is unlikely to pass a bill in the current parliament session which ends next month, lawmakers are hopeful it will go through later in the year.
Lawmakers supporting the casino bill are aiming to pass it in the fall extraordinary session, political and industry sources said on Friday.
“It’s logistically difficult for it to pass in the current session,” one political source said, while adding that supporters of the bill were still hoping to start parliamentary debate next month. “I would say it’s highly likely to pass in the fall.”