Mar 21, 2014

Tokyo drift: Japan could prove James Packer’s trump card

James Packer's Crown group is eyeing up the lucrative Japanese market, which is likely to soon legalise casino gambling. But he will face stiff competition to secure the sought-after licences.

Michael Sainsbury — Freelance correspondent in Asia and <em>Little Red Blog</em> Editor

Michael Sainsbury

Freelance correspondent in Asia and Little Red Blog Editor

Crown Tokyo. It has a nice, if slightly imperialist, ring to it. It would be the icing on the cake for James Packer’s increasingly successful strategy of investing in Asian casinos, or as they are more euphemistically called these days, “integrated resorts”.

The prize in Japan, at least at face value, is mouth-watering: a foundation position in what is expected to be the world’s second- or third-largest casino market. Gambling revenues in Tokyo alone are forecast at about $10 billion, and there’s talk about at least one other casino in Osaka and up to six licences. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has emphatically signalled that he finally wants to legalise gambling in a country that already has the world’s most lucrative horse-racing industry (worth more than A$33 billion a year) and a truly massive grey market in the unique slot/pinball machine hybrid known as pachinko.

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