A casino complex which will include restaurants, shops, spa facilities and entertainment outlets has been approved as Japan announces its plan to open its first casino. After many deliberations that have been ongoing for many years, the plan to build the first casino has been met with mixed reactions and more controversy. On the upside is a higher increase in tourist spending with most fears fuelled by the prospect in gambling addiction by locals. It has been reported that Japan already has a serious gambling problem and it is likely to be a target for organised crime in the future.
Gambling addiction support groups said they had “grave concerns” about the project. It was reported that an open letter was sent to government officials citing a sudden increase in requests for help from young people who have become addicted to online gambling. To address those concerns, Japanese citizens will have to pay a 6,000 yen fee for every 24 hours they spend in the casino, with a portion of the fee earmarked for gambling addiction measures, according to an Osaka official.
The location of the casino complex will be built in Osaka, towards the western side of the port city. Most senior politicians have been in favour of the construction of the complex and demands for a local referendum where the public could decide the outcome were rejected by the house of parliament. The Osaka local authority has confirmed that the 1.8tn yen (US $13.4 billion) project is scheduled for completion in 2029. Minister Tetsuo Saito who has the portfolio for tourism and infrastructure said that the project was approved after “sufficient examination from various perspectives”. There will however be a cap on the number of visits by Japanese gamblers, and family members can request that a relative be banned from using casinos, Saito said.
Japan’s Prime minister Fumio Kishida, said the complex would promote development in the wider Osaka region and “become a tourism base that will disseminate the charm of Japan to the world”.
Third largest economy in the world
The gambling market in Japan is estimated at US $20 billion a year if three casino complexes are build. A number of the largest casino operators have been lobbying Japanese authorities to approve the construction of the first complex as this could generate large profits and revenues in tax for the government of Japan.
Japan is the world’s third largest economy. It was prior to this, the only major global economy that had a ban on casinos. The approval was pushed and championed by Kishida’s Liberal Democratic party who have spent years and much effort to bring about the approval of the casino. In 2016 a law was passed to legalise the gambling industry. This was followed by Parliament passing a law that allowed the construction of purpose built integrated resorts such as the new Osaka complex.
In 2018 after the law was passed, a nationwide poll indicated that 64.8 percent of respondents opposed plans to build casinos, while 27.6 percent were in favour. A Nikkei business newspaper poll this month found that 45 percent of Osaka residents were in favour of the construction of the new resort however, 38 percent of respondents voted against.
MGM Resorts to operate first casino in Japan
The Osaka complex will be run by the Japanese arm of MGM Resorts International and Orix, a financial services company. More than 20 local firms will be assisting with the operation as subcontractors. In addition to a casino, the complex which will be built on the artificial island of Yumeshima – will include a hotel, an international conference hall, exhibition facilities and a theatre.
The Osaka government estimates the project will create 15,000 jobs. Up to 20 million visitors from Japan and overseas are expected to use the complex every year, generating sales of more than 520 billion yen, 80 percent of which will come directly from the casinos.
Japan is a nation of keen gamblers, with publicly run horse, speedboat, motorcycle and keirin bicycle racing together bringing in the equivalent of billions of dollars a year, while pachinko, a pinball-like game played at 7,600 parlours nationwide, generated 14.6tn yen in sales in 2020, according to the Japan Productivity Centre’s leisure white paper.
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