By Michael Penn

The year 2017 saw a distinct acceleration in the race to obtain licenses to build and operate Japan’s first IRs. While everyone agrees that the potential scope of the market is vast, without the precise locations and the terms of regulation yet being clarified, estimations of the ultimate size of this market remain little more than guesswork.

The year 2017 saw a distinct acceleration in the race to obtain licenses to build and operate Japan’s first IRs. While everyone agrees that the potential scope of the market is vast, without the precise locations and the terms of regulation yet being clarified, estimations of the ultimate size of this market remain little more than guesswork. Progress in the year was once again stalled by politics, though operators are hoping to push forward in 2018 with both the legislative framework and their own groundwork.



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Money laundering comes a close second to gambling addiction when it comes to reasons for opposing casinos in Japan, with local media stoking fears that the country’s organized crime gangs plan on using IRs to legitimize the proceeds from crime.

 

Money laundering comes a close second to gambling addiction when it comes to reasons for opposing casinos in Japan, with local media stoking fears that the country’s organized crime gangs plan on using IRs to legitimize the proceeds from crime. These opponents might be exaggerating the risks of money laundering at the anticipated Japanese IRs, but their concerns do not seem to be entirely misplaced. Japan is not necessarily on the cutting edge of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) policies.

 



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For Chicago-based operator Rush Street Gaming (RSG), building an IR in a smaller, regional location like Tomakomai or Nagasaki is not a consolation prize for missing out on one of the major Japanese urban markets, but is itself the main event.

 

For Chicago-based operator Rush Street Gaming (RSG), building an IR in a smaller, regional location like Tomakomai or Nagasaki is not a consolation prize for missing out on one of the major Japanese urban markets, but is itself the main event. In an exclusive interview with Asia Gaming Brief, RSG Chairman Neil Bluhm and CFO Tim Drehkoff—as well as Steve Rittvo, CEO of Innovation Project Development, who the company has retained to help them win their bid in Japan—laid out their priorities and strategies.

 



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Most gaming industry analysis currently predicts that the city of Yokohama may very well become the host for Japan’s largest IR in the mid-2020s. Situated in Kanagawa Prefecture as part of Japan’s capital region—with its vast population of tens of millions—almost any major IR operator would love to have a piece of this action; but even should Japan’s IR Implementation Bill pass smoothly through the national legislature, it remains far from clear that Yokohama will actually decide to seek a license.

 

Most gaming industry analysis currently predicts that the city of Yokohama may very well become the host for Japan’s largest IR in the mid-2020s. Situated in Kanagawa Prefecture as part of Japan’s capital region—with its vast population of tens of millions—almost any major IR operator would love to have a piece of this action; but even should Japan’s IR Implementation Bill pass smoothly through the national legislature, it remains far from clear that Yokohama will actually decide to seek a license.



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