Osaka power party eyes Crown in casino debate
- From: The Australian
- September 07, 2013
JAMES Packer-backed Crown has hosted a powerful delegation from the Japanese city of Osaka at its flagship casino complex in Melbourne ahead of a debate in the Japanese parliament on legalising casino resorts.
The Osaka government initiated this week's visit to Crown Melbourne.
The delegation was given a tour of the property by chief executive Rowen Craigie and a presentation on integrated resorts by Crown's strategy and designs boss Todd Nisbet.
The 15-person delegation included Ryuichi Murakami, the Vice-Mayor of Osaka, and Teruo Minobe, President of the Osaka City Council.
There were also a number of politicians, including Akira Yanagimoto, faction leader of the Liberal Democratic Party on Osaka City Council and a representative of the Japanese Communist Party.
Officials from the new Osaka Economic Strategy Bureau also attended, including director-general Michiaki Tsutsumi.
The bureau was established this year by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to focus on boosting investments and luring foreign tourists to the industrial city.
The delegation was co-hosted by City of Melbourne officials including Jane Sharwood, manager, business and international.
The resounding electoral victory secured by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party in July is expected to finally ensure passage of long-awaited casino legislation in Japan before the end of the year.
Mr Abe's LDP backs allowing fully fledged resort-casinos in Japan to add to the country's pachinko parlours.
A cross-party group of 140 politicians now supports the move and Japan's police have also dropped their longstanding opposition.
Liberalising gambling is one of a number of radical reforms Mr Abe hopes will boost Japan's sluggish growth.
Broker CLSA has estimated that just two gaming resorts in Tokyo and another in Osaka could create $US10 billion ($10.9bn) in revenue a year.
The Japanese are eyeing the success of the two integrated casino resorts in Singapore that generated combined revenue of about $US5.3bn last year.
The success of Singapore's integrated resorts strategy was highlighted by Mr Nisbet in his presentation to the visiting Japanese delegation.
Mr Packer told The Australian last month: "If Japan comes on it will be the second-biggest gaming market in the world. Japan is looking at the Singapore story. With integrated resorts done well, the good outweighs the bad. Singapore is proof of that."
Mr Packer's Asian gaming joint venture with Lawrence Ho, Melco Crown Entertainment, is building its first project outside Macau in The Philippines and eyeing opportunities in Japan and Taiwan.
Separately, Crown is pursuing its own integrated resort development in Sri Lanka.