Casinos in Asia 2
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Casinos are popping up all over Asia. Their biggest risk is political
Vegas comes to Manila
KABUKICHO, Japan's biggest fleshpot, swarms over a crowded one-kilometre block of Tokyo.
It is a gaudy patchwork of clubs, massage parlours and seedy hotels, a short walk from what is probably the world's busiest train station.
Hoodlums from Yakuza crime gangs tout illicit thrills from a well-thumbed menu of sex, drugs and gambling.
Takeshi Iwaya, a politician, wants to pull gambling out of the seedy company it keeps in Kabukicho and put it into giant family-friendly casinos.
He is lobbying for Japan to lift its ban on casinos.
A share of Macau's eye-watering gambling revenues is the goal.
Singapore, home to a couple of new upmarket casino resorts, is the model.
Three years ago, the island state allowed Marina Bay Sands, run by Sheldon Adelson's Sands empire, and Resorts World Sentosa, run by Malaysia's Genting group, to open.
They earned 5.9 billion last year, nearly as much as all of the casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
Before it can reach such lofty heights, however, Japan must legalise casinos.
It has been debating doing so for years, but supporters say they have finally lined up all the ducks.
A cross-party group of 140 politicians supports the move, including the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, says Mr Iwaya.
Liberalising gambling would fit well with Mr Abe's radical reforms to boost Japan's sluggish growth.
Japan's police have dropped their long-standing opposition, and parliament is expected to debate a legalisation bill soon.
The time is right, says Mr Iwaya.
Legalisation still has its opponents.
Keiko Itokazu, another parliamentarian, worries that the Yakuza gangs have a record of muscling in on legal businesses, from property to banking.
Mr Iwaya responds that there are already lots of illegal casinos in Japan; bringing the business out into the open can only make things better.
Liberalisers also argue that casinos will boost Japan's earnings from foreign tourists and, more important, rapidly deliver a tax windfall to the heavily indebted government.
A Japanese business magazine, Toyo Keizai, has argued that Japan is being left behind as neighbouring countries rush to build lucrative gambling resorts, combining casinos with luxury hotels, shops and cultural attractions.
Indeed it is: countries across the Asia-Pacific region have abandoned their hostility to gambling and are welcoming the big global casino groups.
In July it emerged that Stanley Ho's son Lawrence, also a casino mogul, had reached a deal to open a casino near Vladivostok in Russia's far east.
7月份， Stanley Ho之子，赌场巨头Lawrence达成协议将在俄罗斯远东靠近海参崴的地方开设赌场。
Vietnam is looking to boost foreign tourism by expanding its casinos, and proponents of gambling are making headway in Sri Lanka and Taiwan.
In July Australian lawmakers approved a proposal by James Packer, a billionaire businessman, to open a second casino in Sydney.
His firm, Melco Crown Entertainment, runs casinos in Macau with the younger Mr Ho.
They are also partners in a casino now being built in the Philippines.
Mr Packer has said he is also keen to move into Japan as soon as it liberalises.
He will face competition closer to home: Tony Fung, a Hong Kong tycoon, plans to build a gambling resort in Queensland.
A thriller in Manila
The Philippine capital is famous for many things—floods and traffic jams for a start—but not for striking architecture.
Now, however, on a large plot of reclaimed land overlooking Manila Bay, it is getting four big and impressive casino buildings at once.
The first of Manila's new gambling venues, the Solaire Resort & Casino, has opened.
马尼拉第一家新兴博彩场馆，the Solaire Resort & Casino已经开业。
It is a sleek plate-glass affair with a suitably flashy interior created by Paul Steelman, a casino designer from Las Vegas.
Operated by the Philippine-owned Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, Solaire will cost over 1 billion to finish.
This was the minimum investment required to win one of the four licences on offer.
The other three Manila projects are joint ventures with overseas operators.
The Belle Grande, to be operated by Melco, is due to open next year.
Another, Manila Bay Resorts, is backed by Kazuo Okada, a Japanese billionaire.
It has run into various legal troubles that may delay it, including allegations of bribery and using front companies to own land on its behalf.
Mr Okada's company says it plans legal action against employees it accuses of making illegal payments contrary to company rules,
and that it is co-operating with the authorities to ensure it obeys the law regarding its land ownership.
The fourth project, Resorts World Bayshore, is backed by Genting, a gambling giant with global ambitions.
Genting kick-started Manila's casino craze when it opened Resorts World Manila opposite the capital's main airport in 2009.
Older casinos had acquired a dubious reputation as smoke-filled dens for solitary gamblers.
RWM demonstrated that a casino complex could appeal to the whole family by incorporating shows, cinemas and posh shops.
The formula satisfies both God and mammon;
it appeased critics of gambling, such as the Philippines' influential Catholic church, and made lots of money.
RWM's takings were 355m in its first year.
The government hopes the new casinos will boost tourism across the country, with punters moving on to beach resorts to spend their winnings, or cry over their losses into their pia coladas.
Solaire sees a healthy market both from local punters on modest budgets—with bets of as little as 300 pesos—and from VIP tables where the minimum is at least 25,000 pesos.
Solaire expects about half of these high-rollers to come from mainland China and another third or so to hail from Japan and South Korea.
It will send a private jet to pick up the real big spenders, those who think nothing of splashing out 10m over the course of a junket.
Solaire's owner is Enrique Razon junior, whose family made its money in shipping.
The only cloud on his horizon is geopolitical: the Philippines' increasingly acrimonious confrontations with China and Taiwan over disputed territories and waters in the South China Sea.
This does worry us, Mr Razon concedes. When the Chinese government tells people not to go to the Philippines, they don't go.
All of the countries in the region have a similar love-hate relationship with China, in which diplomatic spats can all too easily flare up.
That is why, as Chin'a generates ever larger numbers of well-off consumers with a passion for gambling and a desire to travel, the main concern for the region's many new casino projects is not competition from each other; it is politics.