Japanese operator seeks casino partner as legislation nears

By Emma Rumney
As Japan looks set to legalise casino gambling, panchinko hall operator Dynam Japan Holdings Co has become the first domestic company to release a shortlist of potential partners, Reuters reports.

Political talks on a bill that will mark the first step towards legalisation are expected to start next month, with advocates hoping it will be passed before the parliament session ends in June.

Yoji Sato, Dynam's chairman and one of Japan's wealthiest businessmen, told Reuters that the firm is in talks with several Asian gaming operators and wants to announce a partnership once the initial bill is passed, adding that a Japanese casino is Dynam's "number one focus".

The potential partners include Macau-based operators Melco Crown Entertainment, SJM Holdings and Galaxy Entertainment Group as well as South Korea's NagaCorp.

Sato told Reuters he is more concerned with playing a large part in the casino's operation than he is with ownership and is also interested in targeting regional markets outside big cities as Dynam has done with its panchinko halls.

With an affluent population already showing an interest in gambling on the country's panchinko machines, combined with Chinese high rolling neighbours, Japan has been tagged as having the potential to become the world's third-biggest gambling market. With possible annual revenue of over $40bn, Japan would be behind only Macau and the US.

This has attracted a number of western operators such as MGM international, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, whose chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson has said he will "spend whatever it takes" to enter the Japanese market.

If the initial bill passes in the coming months as expected, a further bill would then be needed to outline the legal structure for gambling in Japan. Proponents aim for this second bill to pass in 2015, meaning casinos could be in operation ready for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Emma Rumney

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