Casino Mogul James Packer is based in Australia, but his recent projects have seen him expand into various other international markets. One of his latest projects sees his joint venture Melco Crown working hard to obtain a casino license in Japan’s newly regulated gambling market. To show its commitment to Japan, Melco Crown has promised to donate $10 million to local cultural projects.

As Japan gets ready to legalize casino gambling, many high-profile casino operators from around the world have started competing for licenses. From Las Vegas Sands to MGM, world-class gambling firms want to get in on the ground floor of Japan’s land-based gambling market. Melco Crown aims to get itself apart from the competition by appealing to the country’s arts programs.

This week, Melco Crown pledged $10 million towards the funding of a cultural project that will be carried out with the Tokyo University of the Arts. The casino operator made this announcement without any mention of its plans to enter the Japanese gambling market, but industry professionals are well aware of the ulterior motive.

"Melco really wants to do something to help contribute to cultural development in Japan,” says Maggie Ma, a spokesperson for Melco Crown. “There is no defined set period for the commitment”. Japan’s soon-to-be regulated casino gambling market offers up great earning potential for gaming firms. According to reports, the market could be worth upwards of $15 billion annually.

The bill to legalize casino gambling in Japan is currently up for consideration by the local parliament. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supports the legislation, and gaming industry professionals are optimistic that the bill will be passed. Should everything go according to plan, land-based casino regulations could be drawn up by 2015, and the country’s first casino resort could be opened by 2020.