Global casinos not attracting Japan tourists

Asia’s glitzy IRs and casinos around the world are not attracting large numbers of Japanese tourists, despite their propensity to gamble in pachinko parlours at home, operators on a panel at the World Gaming Executive Summit in Barcelona said.

Global casino operators are battling hard for a coveted license in Japan, attracted in large part by a large and wealthy population with a taste for gambling. Although numbers are on the decline, about $200 billion is spent each year in the country’s ubiquitous pachinko parlors.

Yet once abroad in countries where gaming is legalized, unlike the Chinese, they are not visiting casinos.

“With all the talk about the propensity to gamble, you just don’t see the Japanese in Asia’s casinos,” said Tim Shepherd, director of Fortuna Investments and co-founder of Silver Heritage Group. “It is going to be an interesting challenge for everyone.”

For the first five months of this year, about 7.4 million Japanese travelled overseas, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. In May alone, visitors to South Korea jumped 42 percent, with a 7.8 percent increase to Hong Kong. Numbers to Asia’s premier gambling destination, Macau, slipped in the month.

“The Japanese are not coming in anything like the volume, or the price point of the Chinese,” Paul Richardson, group director of strategy and corporate development at the U.K.’s Rank Group and former executive at Galaxy Entertainment in Macau told the panel session.

Roger Marris, CEO of The Ritz Club in London agreed that the high-end property attracts very few high rollers from Japan.

The absence may be explained in part by a lack of education when it comes to table games, which are dominant in most parts of Asia. However, it may also suggest the need to fine tune the product offering on the floor of Japan’s future IRs to adopt some of the features the Japanese are more familiar with.