Japan’s Parliament is currently undergoing final deliberations with the country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, regarding the objective to bring the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill (IRIB) to fruition. Integrated Resorts are large -scale casino-hotels that foreign investors are looking to bring to the country in efforts to boost economic growth, but for years have faced stagnation due to the Japanese officials’ reluctance to allow for casino gambling. Several measures have been approved, which could help the landmark legislation to pass.
Gambling resistance has not come only from top officials, but the general public as well, and although gambling is now legal in Japan, for years operators and ‘gaming’ establishments relied on various methods and loopholes to bypass legal restrictions. However, casino-resorts and IRs would generate an entirely new landscape for Japan in regards to gambling.
Recently, the country’s Upper House enforced a law to tackle gambling addiction. The Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures was passed, which in turn has helped IRIB make it to the final stages. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as well as its coalition party, Komeito approved IRIB in a majority vote with economists predicting that the ultimate success of IRs would only benefit Japan financially.
With last major hurdle on the horizon, last-minute concerns have still arisen over fears that the bill still would not be approved. New resolutions are continuously being added, and many officials who support the bill have begun to fear the worst. Local governments and the governing bodies of the country hope to finally resolve the issue of gambling once and for all, creating awareness campaigns on the benefits of IRs for the country as well as educating citizens on the potential pitfalls of gambling.
If all goes well and the bill is finally approved, officials will authorize casino licenses only to three operators; with companies such as MGM International, Caesars and Las Vegas Sands among the many casino enterprises vying for a top spot over the highly coveted licenses.
Pennsylvania lottery boasts big numbers
This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue released a report stating that the Pennsylvania Lottery’s new PA iLottery games, had generated sales of over $21 million. The operation has been running for only a month, and by the end of June 30, over $18 million in winnings had been paid out to a customer base with some 45,000 participants.
Communications director Jeffrey Johnson claims that despite the online lottery’s tremendous start, it has faced strong opposition from the state’s land-based gambling operators.
In total, there are 11 iLottery games, which offer participants the possibility to win as much as $250,000. Fast-play and scratch-off games however, are not offered. Despite, the lack of popular scratch-off games, Pennsylvania’s land-based casino heads have continued to criticize the new iLottery system, claiming the games’ resemblance to land-based slot machines and in turn taking away valuable revenue from the brick-and-mortar casinos.
What comes into question is the language of the legislation State Governor Tom Wolf signed into law regarding gambling expansion. The law explicitly prohibits the Lottery from offering online games that “simulate casino-style games.”, and land-based operators have argued that even the iLottery’s own marketing material has used the phrases “slot-style” and “casino-style” referring to their offered games in the past.
Attorneys for the operators of the iLottery have stated that the language in question was caused by an “inaccuracy” by the system’s tech vendor Scientific Games Corporation, but that the issue “had been addressed.”
Another complicating factor is the fact that the PA iLottery’s online games do not have to pay the extraordinarily high 54% state tax imposed on land-based slots. Land-based operators claim that the “pseudo-slots” should fact the same financial responsibilities or that the legislature be enforced to remove such online operations.
Discussions are currently underway between land-based casino operators and state legislators.
Downtown Miami casino earns approval
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, a division that survive gambling for the state Florida, has approved the proposed development of a new gambling establishment near the downtown Miami area. The newly planned facility will provide gamblers with a place to wager on jai-alai, a popular South Florida sport, and poker and card table options.
The estimated timeframe for the project has been set at two years, and the company running the show is West Flagler Associates, after receiving a permit to construct and operate the gaming facility in question. West Flagler already owns and operates Magic City Casino as well as the Greyhound Racing & Poker venues located in the Naples-Fort Myers along Florida’s west coast.
Approval for a permit is crucial for the company as in previous years it had failed to do so, even winning a court case last year, which reinstated an application for a second permit for wagering on jai-alai based games.
The Miami Herald, one of South Florida’s largest newspapers, reported that the VP of West Flagler commented, “We’ve just been waiting for a year and a half for the state to decide what to do. We see it as just another entertainment offering in the Miami area.”
The proposed gaming establishment, set for the community of Edgewater, is still without a name, but expects to be a formidable destination for gaming in the South Florida area, particularly in regards jai-alai. Dog racing, which is still considered one of the most popular betting pastimes in Florida state, is slowly being overtaken by jai-alai (in terms of wagering games) in the South Florida region.
With summer underway, West Flagler looks to begin operations soon, with construction operations set to being in the winter months, the slowest season for gaming and gambling games in Florida.