Could Japanese Casinos Be Without Poker Rooms?

Could Japanese Casinos Be Without Poker Rooms?

Japan is surely making some people scratch their heads after reports that some officials might want traditional cash game poker to be prohibited from the upcoming casinos.

After a drawn-out debate, the country legalized the casinos late last year, but an additional piece of legislation is expected to come foward this fall that would establish some of the rules and regulations for the properties. A couple of U.S. casino operators have already said they’d be interested in $10 billion casino complexes there, dubbed “integrated resorts.”

According to a report from Tokyo-based The Mainichi, a panel of experts created to come up with an outline for the rules said late last month that Japan should limit casino gambling to house-banked games of chance. In other words, no player-versus-player, non-house-banked poker.

The panel also believes sports betting, another game that incorporates a significant skill factor, should be banned. The move could cost the industry hundreds of millions in annual revenue.

“[B]ets on games customers play between themselves would be banned because it is difficult for casino operators to control such games and such betting could lead to criminal offenses,” the report said. However, poker is successfully regulated all across the U.S. casino industry.

Nothing is official yet, but such a rule could deal a big blow to the casinos, which are being considered for the cities of Yokohama, Osaka and Tokyo.

Experts say that the Japanese casino gambling market could be worth $40 billion a year, which would be about the same size of the U.S. commercial casino industry. But that’s only about half the pie in America. Tribal casinos win more than $30 billion each year.

In Nevada, which has a gambling market worth about $11 billion annually, poker revenue accounts for about $120 million. Sports betting generates more than $200 million in revenue.

How popular is poker in Japan? It’s hard to tell because gaming has been largely prohibited, but according to the World Series of Poker, Japanese poker players accounted for 553 entries in bracelet events this summer, good for 15th place among the 111 different nations that participated.

While announcing a deal for a tournament stop in the country later this year, WPT CEO Adam Pliska said the “Japanese poker market is a flourishing one.”

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