A COALITION BUILDS FOR CASINOS IN JAPAN

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Japanese lawmakers may consider legalizing casino gambling next year.

More than 100 lawmakers from a broad range of political parties have gotten together to form what they call the “league of Diet members for the promotion of the international tourism industry”. This cross-party grouping now convenes once a week to explore what kind of legislative reforms are needed to make the first Japanese casino a reality.

While it seems unrealistic to suppose they will hit their stated goal of drafting a casino law by autumn, it does seem likely that, when it is ready - probably in spring 2011 - their law will be passed. When that happens, the door will open onto what one commentator described to The Japan Times as “the last major untapped market” in the global casino business.

As Japanese law stands today, casinos and most forms of gambling are illegal. There are six legislated exceptions to the prohibition: pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, bicycle racing, motorcycle racing, motorboat racing and the Toto and Takarakuji lotteries - all of which are operated, exclusively, by public agencies.

The wildly popular game of pachinko - generally played in large, cacophonous “pachinko parlors” housing hundreds of machines - has no exemption from the laws banning gambling. Both the slot-machine-like game and its electronic cousins known as pachislot are permitted because, as far as the law is concerned, they’re not used for gambling.

Shozo Azuma, a lawmaker member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and a member of the pro-casino Diet league, outlined the reasoning behind legalization in a recent speech: “What this country needs is a way of stimulating the economy that won’t use tax money. The only way left to do that is casinos,” he said. “In order for this country to develop energetically in the future, then I think the casino industry has potential worth exploring.”

According to a study by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government that was completed in 2002, a combined casino, hotel and entertainment facility that attracted 2.25 million people each year would generate US$642.6 million in earnings, resulting in a total tax yield of $156 million, and employ about 4,000 people.



PACKAGE TOURS SOAR AMONG MACAU VISITORS<

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Macau is becoming one of the favorite holiday destinations in Asia, as the latest official statistics show that an increasing number of tourists are coming to the Chinese gambling enclave on package tours.

Between January and May it was reported that some 2.57 million people, up by 23.2 percent year on year, arrived in package tours.

According to the peninsula’s Statistics and Census Service, visitor arrivals on package tours surged by 133 percent year on year to 569,803 in May. Visitors from mainland China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong also soared, respectively, by 168 percent, 86 percent, 38 percent and 14.5 percent.

In addition, more South Korean and Indian tourists had traveled to Macau in May.

The cumulative number of guests checked into hotels and guest houses in the first five months of the year reached almost 3.2 million, an increase of 20 percent over the same period of 2009.

Not surprisingly, gambling revenue rose 65 percent in June to US$1.69 billion.

The total for the first half rose 67 percent to $10.4 billion.



WHOLE NEW BURSWOOD: A$350M. FACELIFT IS SET

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The Burswood Entertainment Complex and casino in Western Australia is slated for an A$350 million facelift aimed at creating a world-class resort.

Part of the upgrade includes an expansion of the casino floor and the number of gaming machines, with an increase of 250 machines planned alongside an extra 50 gaming tables aimed at combating current overcrowding during peak periods.

As part of the refurbishment, rooms at the hotel will be upgraded, two luxury villas will be added to the hotel, a new private gaming salon will be built for high rollers, and new Italian and Japanese restaurants will be constructed alongside a new food court and buffet restaurant and a bar in the hotel’s lobby. The hotel will also purchase a luxury yacht for use by customers staying at the hotel.

Burswood will pay a $20 million up-front fee to the state government and agreed to a tax rate on the new gaming machines of up to 27 percent, with the owners receiving “in-principle support to expand the existing casino building,” according to an official announcement.

 Burswood is also seeking approvals from the Gaming and Wagering Commission for the expansion and the new gaming products.

The redevelopment of the complex will create more than 450 new jobs, Burswood Chief Executive Barry Felstead said.



THOUSANDS ARRESTED IN RAIDS ACROSS ASIA ON ILLEGAL GAMBLING

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More than 5,000 people have been arrested in a swoop on illegal gambling on World Cup football across Asia, and police have seized nearly US$10 million.

According to a Reuters report, Interpol said raids on nearly 800 illegal gambling dens between June 11 and July 11 targeted illicit betting linked to organized crime in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China.

The coordinated police operation, code-named SOGA III, was not about match-fixing, a spokeswoman for Interpol said.

The locations, including some in Hong Kong, and even in Macau, had taken more than $155 million in bets. Police also seized cars, bank cards, computers and mobile phones during the raids, which were coordinated by Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France, and its Bangkok liaison office.

Three SOGA operations carried out so far have led to nearly 7,000 arrests, the seizure of more than $26 million in cash and the closure of illegal gambling dens that handled more than $2 billion worth of bets.

One swoop saw police smash a vast cross-border bookmaking syndicate in China that had taken in around $1 billion in illegal bets. During that operation, mounted in cooperation with police in the southern province of Guangdong, 83 people were arrested in Hong Kong and 29 in China, police said.



INTRALOT, PARTNER WIN CONTRACT FOR CHONGQING LOTTERY

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MelcoLot, a Hong Kong-listed company in which Intralot is a substantial shareholder, has entered into an agreement with the China Welfare Lottery in the municipality of Chongqing for the provision of Intralot’s Lotos Horizon system and related services.

The initial term of the contract is five years, which will renew automatically for five more years by mutual consent.

Intralot has entered into an agreement with MelcoLot to deliver, implement and maintain the Lotos Horizon Hardware and Application Software for the duration of the contract and any extensions. Intralot also will provide 2,000 Lotos Horizon Multimedia Controllers, which will allow the Chongqing Welfare Lottery to create, manage and broadcast rich multimedia content throughout its retail network that exceeds 2,500 points of sale.

The municipality of Chongqing has a population of 31 million and is considered to be one of China’s upcoming industrial and technological centers.

China’s Welfare Lottery was launched in 1987 to raise welfare funds through lottery sales. The value of the lottery’s sales in China as of the end of May had reached almost US$66 billion, helping to raise about $21.9 million since the program was first launched. The fund has been used to build and expand more than 150,000 welfare facilities, including social welfare institutes, homes for the elderly in rural areas, sheltering centers for homeless minors and schools for orphans.