The Government of Japan is expected to approve the project unveiled by the Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka for what will become the first integrated casino resort in the country in 2029.
The move that is set to change the gambling landscape of the country once and for all comes at a time when travel restrictions introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic are removed, with some local Governments realizing the benefits that could be brought to certain regions of the country by attracting tourists to what is called integrated resorts (IRs) – large establishments comprised of a casino, a luxury hotel, conference and meeting spaces, and other amenities for people of all ages.
As revealed by sources familiar with the situation, the Japanese Central Government is set to hold a meeting of its competent task force as early as April 14th, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the relevant ministers from his Cabinet expected to announce their official approval for the Osaka integrated casino project. The unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter explained that the Governments of Osaka Prefecture and city are willing to see the facility up and running between the fall and winter of 2029. The integrated casino resort is set to be situated on the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay.
The proposed IR is to be developed and operated in collaboration between US gambling giant MGM Resorts International and the Japanese private-sector contractor Orix Corp. According to preliminary expectations, the resort could attract around 20 million visitors every year and generate about ¥1.14 trillion in annual economic benefits to the region of Western Japan, where Osaka Prefecture is.
Japan’s Legislative Process of Casino Resorts’ Approval Delayed by Various Reasons
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the Prefecture of Nagasaki has also submitted an integrated casino resort project.
However, the sources familiar with the situation shared that the Government’s task force is likely to put off any decision as it has signaled it would need more time to carry out further assessment of the project’s details.
Back in 2018, the Japanese lawmakers enacted a piece of legislation under which the development of up to three integrated casino resorts in the country. The decision was made as part of the Government’s plans to stimulate the local economy through the expansion of Japan’s gambling industry but, unfortunately, faced serious opposition from the wider public because of concerns about the potential negative impact that gambling may have on society.
The approval of the Osaka IR casino project was originally expected to happen in 2022 but the process got delayed also due to concerns over liquefaction risk and potential soil contamination on the artificial island of Yumeshima. Recently, a number of Osaka voter exit polls have reiterated the local residents’ clear support for the prefecture’s proposed integrated casino resort. Now, people familiar with the matter have confirmed that the project is expected to finally get conditional approval.
Leaving that aside, the delay in the IR resorts’ approval process was also slowed down by some procedural delays during the coronavirus pandemic, the withdrawals of some foreign operators, as well as a massive scandal that resulted in the 2019 arrest of a Japanese lawmaker, who has been among the most avid campaigners of gambling industry expansion through casino legalization.