There’s no denying that the majority of businesses globally have felt the pinch over the past twelve months, with ongoing lockdowns forcing many to shut up shop for extended periods of time or pivot quickly in a bid to stay afloat. But one market that has flourished in spite of the economic pressures we’ve all been under is gambling, with a record number of people logging onto the internet to play live games of poker, roulette and blackjack as they searched for new ways to stay entertained at home.
Now, as bricks-and-mortar establishments around the world finally begin to fling their doors open once again, we’re seeing scores of high-rollers lining up to play big after many months of relying on virtual action – and with the global casino market set to exceed $516 billion in 2021, it’s looking to be a bumper year for casinos both online and off.
Las Vegas and Macau have long been two of the favoured destinations for travelling casino enthusiasts to get their fix, with the latter putting Asia firmly on the map as an up-and-coming gambling continent to watch. And Japan is set to become a new contender in the casino tourism stakes thanks to the nation’s new Integrated Resorts (IR) bill, which has finally made domestic gambling legal and has paved the way for the development of some exciting new luxury casino resorts.
Long seen as an innovator on the economic world stage, Japan is known for producing impressive technological advances and attracts numerous business and tourism visitors each year – but in recent times, its once-thriving economy has begun to shrink at an alarming pace. It is fitting, then, that the IR bill should be passed at such a time – and could be just what the nation needs to turn things around.
After a long history of land-based casinos being outlawed, some quick-thinking operators had begun to take advantage of a loop-hole that meant residents could still play with providers whose servers weren’t based in Japan – allowing thrill-seeking baccarat and blackjack players to log onto a selection of online casinos in Japan and play without breaching any rules, and casinos to boost their revenue as a result.
Now, the much-anticipated new IR bill could be about to make Japan the world’s next most exciting destination for casino resorts, giving tourism a much-needed boost and attracting high-rollers from around the world who are looking to combine a luxurious and cultural travel experience with some potentially eye-watering wins on their favourite casino games.
What is the Japanese IR Casino Bill?
The IR bill is a piece of legislation that not only effectively legalises land-based casinos in Japan, but has also served as the catalyst for some major development plans, with three mega casino resorts already on the cards. It is hoped that these developments will have a dramatic impact on the economy, but we could have a while to wait until they are ready to throw open their doors to the public, with the global pandemic putting the brakes on just about everything, including this.
The idea behind the proposed developments, which have been floated by the Japanese government, is to open Japan up to an increased level of tourism from around the world, with an ambitious target of attracting a whopping 60 million visitors a year by the time we reach 2030.
Not everyone is thrilled about the prospect, however, and some members of the opposing political party have raised concerns that the project could instigate an era of problem gambling in Japan. Nonetheless, this has largely been dismissed on the grounds that many Japanese have long been accessing gambling sites online, and that it would make better economical sense to bring the resulting revenue in-house. Should pro-bill politicians have their way, Japan could soon become a gambling powerhouse to rival current big-hitters such as Las Vegas and Macao, with bids for construction already being prepared across multiple prominent Japanese cities. The final three are set to be selected later this year, leaving Japanese casino fans on the edges of their seats.
The bottom line
Despite still being a leading world economy, Japan has been left behind in recent years, owing largely to the dramatic growth seen by neighbouring nations, China and India. But with the IR bill set to pave the way for a whole new era of casino tourism that will likely attract affluent, high-net-worth individuals from around the world – not to mention some of the biggest high-rollers on the block – this might just be the game-changer the country has been waiting for.
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