The Japanese authorities are reportedly considering expanding the nation’s flourishing sports betting market to include the popular soccer and baseball leagues. If implemented, the move could build the foundation of an estimated $65 million industry.
According to a report published in the Financial Times, the politicians could green light betting on the Nippon Professional League – a popular baseball tournament second only to Major League Baseball – as early as 2024. The legislation could also allow wagering on J-League soccer by the end of the same year.
Betting on the J-League is currently legal but only under a lottery system called Toto. It’s unlike any single-game wagering policy that the punters are used to seeing.
According to Japan Visitor, “the primary benefit of the Toto system is that the punters don’t need to understand the game to place a wager. While the sports dailies offer their predictions, randomly selecting a winner is just as effective as backbreaking research”.
Japan is also home to the famous Basketball League, and eight professional teams, while golf is equally popular. However, it’s not immediately clear will it be allowed to wager on these sports anytime soon.
What’s Legal and What’s Not?
Sports betting isn’t off the charts in the country, but punters can only wager on cycling, motorcycle and motorboat racing, and horse racing. Apart from the latter, the other activities aren’t exclusively popular among the US punters. But like the former, sports betting is quickly gaining traction in America.
According to the FT sources, sports betting brought an estimated $55 billion in combined revenue in 2019. Before the historic Supreme Court ruling in 2018 revoking PASPA, American punters sent millions of dollars to offshore sportsbooks every year. A bulk of the proceeds went to the J-League and Nippon Professional League.
Japan is a desirable market for online sportsbooks since the world’s third-largest economy is home to enthusiastic gamblers who are tech-savvy and have a disposable income.
What do the Operators Think?
Some experts are currently analyzing which operators stand to gain the most from the move. If the Japanese authorities expand the existing legal sports betting legislation to include soccer and baseball leagues, Entain plc and MGM Resorts International stand to make the maximum profit.
The reasons are simple. The Orix Group, along with the Bellagio, is the only potential competition for an integrated resort license in Osaka. It’s generally viewed as the likely candidate to bag one of Japan’s elusive casino permits as the government plans to issue just three.
Should MGM vie for the same, it would in all probability bring the MGM brand to leverage the booming sports betting market. Entain incidentally is a 50% partner in the venture and stands to make an equal gain if MGM makes the first move. According to independent research firm Peel Hunt, “Entain could work with MGM to develop the local market if the latter were to obtain a sports betting license”.