Eco-Friendly Casinos Could Mean Better Chances for Expansion into Japan

Despite efforts to legalize land-based casinos in Japan, by the 2020 Summer Olympics, there’s been very little support for the establishments, for various reasons.

There are perhaps very few commercial establishments that evoke luxe as much as casinos do. As Intercasino explains in a blog post on its website, “The prestigious casino gambling place is presumed to be luxurious and grand, and anyone needs to step inside with shining tuxedos and signature outfits.” These structures, often towering above all else and demanding attention with their bright lights and flashy signs, seem to thrive on the mentality of the city – wasteful and unapologetically so. This is one of the reasons why casinos have had a difficult time entering some traditional Asian markets like Japan’s, where everyone is not just more reserved and less inclined to favor the extravagant, but also more aware of the impacts their actions may have.

In recent years, however, following a global push for more environmentally conscious operations, many of the world’s largest casinos – and some of those of a smaller scale – have begun making the shift to sustainability. While in the past, many businesses had operated under the mindset that “what’s good for the environment is bad for business,” we’ve begun to see more casino operators and developers take sustainability into account.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) lists some of the more notable efforts of these casino operators. Among them, Caesars Entertainment, one of the more renowned casino operators with properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and Novomatic, a manufacturer of casino games (see some examples here) both on- and offline. The former’s efforts for sustainability have saved them more than $10 million, and Caesars has managed to “reduce its carbon emissions by more than 155 million pounds annually, as well as reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 250,000 pounds annually, and reduced nitrous oxide emissions by 200,000 pounds annually”, while Novomatic has pushed to recycle all its electronic wastes, compact light bulbs, paper, and even aluminum, as well as adopted a new method for digital glass printing that reduces chemical use.

A team from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey catalogued the many different design strategies that casinos could use and have used in order to make operations more sustainable. What seem to be small changes, such as utilizing more daylight in their gaming halls, are actually major shifts for casino operators, whose conventional designs require the use of more energy for lighting and heating-ventilation-air-conditioning (HVAC). The efforts of one Roger Thomas to create a more open space for casino gaming floors, now dubbed the Playground Design, was thought of as groundbreaking, as it opposed current standards for casino design. Thomas introduced more daylight and natural light with large windows, and his “disruptive design” helped ease Wynn Casinos into success. “Trying to separate Roger from whatever credit I’ve received in my lifetime is ridiculous,” Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn Resorts, once said. “Roger’s taste level and his creativity are sixty per cent of the success we’ve had.”

Many casinos now adopt Thomas’s Playground Design, reducing electricity consumption and carbon emissions. These have allowed casinos not just to save millions, but also create a more environmentally friendly industry. With this in mind, it’s not unlikely that the efforts to bring casinos to Japan by the 2020 Olympics may bear fruit, and Japan, with its technological advancements and continued push towards sustainable operations across all industries, could very well be the first nation to show us that casinos can be completely sustainable operations.