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What could Japanese casinos mean to Las Vegas?

If you monitor Japanese domestic policy as closely as I do, you probably know very little about Japanese domestic policy. Apparently things are getting interesting over there—interesting in a way that might affect us here in Vegas.

The business-friendly Liberal Democratic Party won power in the last election. And Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, seems business-friendly too. Casino-friendly, even. Right now, casinos are illegal in Japan, even though slot machine-like games called Pachinko pull in $200 billion every year. That’s a lot. $200 billion is five times the amount that Macau casinos pull in. How is that possible? People in Japan really like playing Pachinko. I saw it myself when I visited with my parents. These Pachinko parlors are packed.

Now, Japan is considering “Vegas-style” casinos. More table games, hotel rooms, retail shops—the whole shebang. At least one equity broker (CLSA) thinks Japanese casinos could pull in more revenues than Singapore, and more than Vegas, too.

A casino legalization bill might be introduced this summer, after the upcoming upper house election. It will be opposed by the Communist party and the Social Democratic parties.

The big question is, if Japan builds these large scale casinos, will they take business away from Vegas or just drive up international demand for gaming?

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