Japan’s Integrated Resort Regulations Nearly Complete

Japan’s Fourth Abe Cabinet has approved new regulations that move the country closer to the opening of integrated resorts which would feature the first legal casinos within Japan.

The Cabinet reviewed the new regulations on March 26. They focused mainly on the overall size of the hotels, their conference centres, and exhibition centres. The resorts would not be allowed to construct gambling facilities covering any more than 3% of their total floor space. They will also be required to at 100,000 square metres dedicated to guest rooms.

Conference and exhibition centre size will be combined and calculated together as one. This means that a resort with a larger convention centre, for example, would be allowed to have smaller exhibition facilities. A resort with a conference centre that can hold 1,000 people would be required to have an exhibition centre of at least 120,000 square metres. If the conference centre can facilitate more than 3,000 people, however, the exhibition space requirement would drop to 60,000 square metres.

The resorts are required to have cultural facilities like cinemas, restaurants, museums, music halls, and theatres as well in order to make them more interesting and attractive to tourists. They must also include cultural content that promotes the heritage of the prefecture in which the resort is located.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “The Abe administration has been working on the detailed design of the system under the Integrated Resort (IR) Development Act, which was enacted in [the] summer [of] last year, with the aim of materializing an attractive Japanese-style IR.”

“The Draft Government Ordinance Pursuant to the IR Development Act […] requests facilities, which consist of an IR such as international conference halls, to achieve an unprecedented scale and quality as its designated standard and criteria and introduces relevant clauses to materialise world-class casino regulations, with the aim to realize long-stay tourism which attracts tourists from all over the world,” he added.

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Advertisement and Language Availability

Resorts will also be required to advertise other tourist attractions throughout Japan. They must have concierge and information services available in multiple languages including English and wherever possible these visitor-friendly resources should make use of “cutting edge technology such as virtual reality”.

The resorts themselves will only be permitted to advertise their facilities and services in international airports and ports that service international cruise chips. Japanese residents will have to pay an entry fee of ¥6,000 ($54/£41) and all transactions that exceed ¥1 million must be reported to the regulatory authorities.

Keiichi Ishii, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is responsible for oversight of the integrated resorts project. He said March 26 that the government would be inviting the public to comment on the current proposals.

The Abe Cabinet had been aiming to finalise all regulations within nine months of the integrated resorts bill being passed by the Japanese Diet (Japanese legislature). As the law was passed in July of 2018, it is possible that the regulations will be set as early as sometime in April 2019.

Prime Minister Abe stated, “Going forward, the Government aims at making Japan a leading nation in tourism, exerting every effort to establish the Casino Administration Committee and set forth the basic policies, as determined in the IR Development Act.”

Although the regulations are apparently close to being finalised, many other aspects of the resorts are still far from it. There will initially be three licenses issued, but none are expected to open until at least sometime in 2024. No definite location for any of the potential resorts has been determined. A number of locations are being considered, including the capital city of Tokyo, Sasebo, Wakayama, Yokohama, Osaka, Okinawa, and Hokkaido.

Several casino operators are already lining up with the intention of trying to secure one of the few licenses that will be issued in the country. Among them are Caesars Entertainment, MGM, Hard Rock International, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, and Melco Resorts.

Jim Murren, chief executive at MGM Resorts, has said that he believes it would make sense that the first of these integrated resorts will be licensed and built in Osaka, as the Expo 2025 universal exposition is going to be held there.

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