Industry Expert Claims That Legal Thailand Casinos Could Hurt Japan’s First IR

Quicker to market

The Thai government is close to legalizing up to eight casinos in the country and an industry expert suggests this move could hurt Japan’s first-ever integrated resort (IR).

Thailand casinos could open as soon as 2029

Joji Kokuryo, the managing director of Tokyo-based Bay City Ventures, told Inside Asian Gaming that the head start could take a lot of attention away from the IR, especially with tourists in the South China and Southeast Asia regions. Thailand casinos could open as soon as 2029, which would be ahead of the fall 2030 timeline for Osaka’s MGM Resorts-led project.

The other long-term advantage for Thai casinos in the eyes of the industry expert is that the legislation is currently more attractive for investors and operators when compared to Japan’s framework. Despite three IR licenses being up for grabs, the only project currently going ahead is in Osaka.

More attractive for investors

Many notable casino companies pulled out of the running for IR licenses due to concerns about the hefty tax rates and extensive regulations. Thailand could be a more attractive market for these companies.

In the current proposal, Thai casinos would have an initial 20-year license, compared to a decade for Japan IRs. The tax on gross gaming revenue would also be around 17% rather than the 30% rate in Japan, while the investment requirements would be tailored on a case-by-case basis in Thailand rather than having the same approach for all projects, as is the case with IRs.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin fully supports legal casinos, as they will attract significant foreign investment to the country.

Talking about the Osaka project specifically, Kokuryo believes that local officials need to make sure that it deals with all of the environmental concerns surrounding the project on the artificial Yumeshima Island. Failing to do so could lead to more delays, with MGM having an option to exit the project up until September 2026 if it is not happy with how things are progressing.

Plenty of moving parts

Maybank Investment Bank Analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang disagrees with some of Kokuryo’s sentiments, saying that casinos opening sooner would only lead to them recouping their initial investments faster.

He cited the example of the Singapore market which saw the Resorts World Sentosa open three months ahead of the Marina Bay Sands. Despite this head start, the latter now controls the bulk of the market share due to its location and overall product.

Strong political support exists in Thailand for legalizing casinos, with 253 of the 257 elected lawmakers present on Thursday in the House of Representatives supporting the idea. The next step is for the full cabinet to give its seal of approval before the proposal becomes a reality.

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