In December 2016, a new bill was passed by the Japanese government to legalise casino gambling in the country for the first time. In what has the potential to be a multi-billion-dollar a year industry, it’s not surprising that the world’s biggest casino and gaming empires are competing for a piece of the pie. With so many investors keen to break into the Japanese casino market, it’s refreshing (and surprising) to see some of them prioritising regulations over profits.
Konami Holdings Corporation, a leading slot machine developer that supplies electronic gaming machines to some of the biggest casinos in the world, has said it only intends to service the Japanese casino market if the industry is strictly regulated. A spokesperson for Konami revealed the company wants to see further details about how Japan intends to regulate its casino industry before Konami decides its level of involvement.
The slot machine giant believes a well-regulated gaming industry means more Japanese nationals will visit the casinos, leading the way for integrated resorts to become destinations for more than just gambling related events.
Satoshi Sakamoto, senior executive director at Konami, wants to see Japan employ gaming regulations as strict as those in Las Vegas, where Konami has a large presence.
Sakamoto said, “In Las Vegas, if you have a license they’ll take it away if you start getting involved in strange things, and that would be a big problem. If Japan is too loose, then we’d have to remove ourselves.”
“The most important thing is to have compliance and rules at the same level as Nevada. We want a clean casino and entertainment.”
In Las Vegas, casino operators undergo thorough checks every two years to ensure all operations are above-board and all gambling activities are running in line with the law and state regulations. The personal finances of the top casino executives and their spouses are examined in a bid to curb corruption and keep the gambling industry free from any criminal activity.
Although the introduction of integrated casino reports has been approved in Japan, the details of how the industry will be regulated are yet to be decided. A second bill is in the works to determine such factors as the number of casinos that will be allowed and where the casinos will be licensed to operate.
Konami has a 12 per cent share of the slot machine market in the United States, and is targeting the same figure for Japan if the regulations are up to scratch. If three integrated resorts are approved, Sakamoto predicts that could mean as many as 10,000 slot machines.
Konami, who’s products also includes a popular casino software management system called Synkros, is already benefitting from Japans new gambling laws. Since the December announcement, shares in the company have risen 15 per cent.
Casino giants including MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Hard Rock Café and Wynn Resorts have already put forth their interest in expanding into the Japanese market. The first casino is expected to start operations in 2023, with the intention of boosting Japan’s tourism industry after the 2020 Olympics.