ProPublica reports that President Donald Trump tried to help one of his campaign mega-donors in its attempt to have a casino built in Japan.
Trump met with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, in February 2017. It is reported that, during the meeting, Trump talked to Abe about allowing American casinos to be developed in Japan. This was at a time when casinos had just been legalized in the country.
The report said that Trump was asking on behalf of Las Vegas Sands. The owner of this casino group is Sheldon Adelson, who is a major donor to conservative candidates.
It is reported that Adelson contributed more than $20m ($15m) to Trump’s presidential campaign and that he gave another $5m ($3.8m) for the inauguration festivities. It has also been said that Adelson and Trump met for dinner the day before the Abe meeting. There is no indication that they talked about casinos in Japan during their dinner.
Reaction to this revelation
If this story is true, numerous parties have expressed concerns about it. Some people don’t think that it is appropriate that private business was possibly discussed at an important meeting with a close ally of the United States.
It is rare that these types of private dealings are discussed at such meetings, which usually revolve around national security and other bilateral issues. It would also be unethical for a president to help a donor with business dealings in another nation. Of course, the topic of American casinos might have been discussed in general, rather than one particular group.
Talking about these allegations, the head of a watchdog group in Washington called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics said: “While there are times that it is appropriate for the president to promote business interests, it must be for the benefit of the American people, not his personal relationships.”
An alleged insider to this exchange between Trump and Abe said that the Japanese side was surprised about the comments made by Trump. As reported by ProPublica, Trump is alleged to have told Abe to strongly consider giving Las Vegas Sands a license.
Adelson met with Abe the morning after his dinner with Trump. There were a few other American-based CEOs at this breakfast, including two others who are involved in the casino sector.
With casino licenses set to be awarded in the near future, it certainly will be interesting to see if American casinos, especially the Las Vegas Sands casino, are given the green light by the Japanese authorities.
Casino legalization in Japan
Japan traditionally was hesitant to legalize casinos. There were extensive concerns about the potential rise in problem gambling. A debate raged for more than 15 years about this issue before legalization was finally passed.
Naturally, there has been keen interest from casino groups all across the world, including the United States, about investing in the region.
Gambling is extremely popular in the region, and it has given a great boost to tourism in certain countries. The standout example is the island of Macau, but smaller countries such as Cambodia have also been reaping the rewards of a booming gambling sector.
In July, casino resorts were legalized in Japan. It took a while for the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill to be passed.
Revenues of about $10bn ($7.6bn) annually are estimated for the resort casinos. A competitive bidding process is going on for the three resort casino licenses that are available.
Leading operators from around the globe will be vying for these licenses. Some of the names that have already been linked with licenses include the Hard Rock Cafe International, Caesar’s Entertainment, MGM Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment Group, and Genting Singapore. The proposed locations for these new resort casinos are Osaka, Yokohama, and Tomakomai.