Japan Legal Gambling remains Murky Proposition in 2015

Last year, Japan received its strongest push yet towards legal casino gaming. This push was spurred on by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who remains the country’s biggest backer of casinos. Given that Abe holds an even larger legislative majority following a big victory in December’s snap elections, it seems like 2015 could be the year for legal casinos.

But the big problem remains plenty of public opposition to instituting gambling in the Land of the Rising Sun. So far, the majority of the Japanese public haven’t been convinced that casinos are a great idea. This dilemma is compounded by the fact that most politicians in the country seem unwilling to stick their neck out and convince the public that Japan casinos are a wise choice.

Still, the movement behind Japanese casinos won’t die out any time soon. Everybody from the Las Vegas Sands Corp. to MGM Grand has been currying favor to obtain a license if gambling is legalized. This is considered the third-biggest gaming market in the world – behind Macau and the U.S. – and it’s an untapped market at that.

As Forbes reports, the overall goal is to get integrated resorts (IRs) in Japan before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This would give casino IRs a massive boost in the early going and set the stage for plenty of success on the island nation.

Beyond this, the country has a massive $8.5 trillion debt, which is twice the size of its GDP. And consumer spending has been stifled after a rise in the consumption tax. So the case can be made that casinos will both generate tax revenue and encourage more consumer spending. Furthermore, IRs would make Japan an even more attractive travel destination – especially during the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Time is running out, though, for legislation to be passed, and IRs to be built and running before 2020. Assuming all of this can’t move fast enough for major casino corporations to build their IRs before the Summer Olympics, it’s a wonder how much push legal gambling will get in the coming years. Obviously Japan and its population of 127.3 million will still be a great destinations for IRs. However, the movement is at its strongest now to get something passed so IRs can capitalize on Olympics fans.