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Japan’s Society Remains Divided on Casino Gambling Expansion Matters Despite Progress in Osaka IR Project

Japan is scheduled to open its first casino in the city of Osaka in 2029. The country’s Government has already unveiled expectations that such a move would create new jobs and attract more national and international tourists, bringing the country more popularity as a tourist and entertainment destination. However, not everyone seems to be on board with the idea of the ongoing expansion of the Asian nation’s gambling industry.

As previously reported, the resort that is aimed at starting operation in 2029 has divided the East Asian nation. With the addition of an integrated casino resort, Japan is hoping to lure domestic and international tourists and promote the country’s charms to the world.

The ¥1.8-trillion resort is set to be located on the artificial island of Yumeshima. Apart from the casino venue, the 5.3-million-square-foot integrated resort is set to include a hotel, a shopping centre, a conference centre, museum and exhibition facilities. According to the Government of Osaka, the complex is expected to create 15,000 jobs and have an annual economic impact of approximately ¥520 billion in revenue on an annual basis.

Osaka lawmakers have noted that the facility could attract up to 14 million domestic and 6 million foreign visitors every year.

Establishment of Osaka Integrated Casino Resort Delayed by Several Factors

Originally, casino gambling was illegal in Japan. In a move to create more jobs for local people and boost the tourism sector, the national Government lifted the ban in 2016, and two years later, the Japanese Parliament passed an integrated resort (IR) law that officially made casino games legal at establishments that were allowed to operate under a license issued by the Government.

The integrated casino resort project was proposed years ago but it was officially accepted earlier this year, after the plan was backed by Hirofumi Yoshimura, a politician from the Japan Innovation Party who was re-elected as Governor of Osaka. The delay was due to the Covid-19 pandemic on one hand, and to a corruption scandal involving local lawmakers and leading to arrests, on the other hand.

The integrated casino resort in Osaka is set to be built by US casino operator MGM Resorts International and its local commercial partner Orix Corp. The due got official approval by the Government on April 14th, 2023. Reportedly, both operators hold a 40% stake in the company that was established to run the IR complex. The remaining 20% stake is held by another 20 local companies, such as Panasonic, Kansai Electric Power, and West Japan Rail.

Potential Increase in Gambling Addiction Rates Divide the Nation When It Comes to Proposed IR Project

Currently, Japan is the third-largest economy on a global scale, for which it is considered a lucrative market for gambling development.

According to some market analysts, the gambling industry of the country could potentially generate billions of dollars every year. As reported by GoodLuckMate in October 2022, the size of the online casino sector in Japan is worth $6.7 billion, with the figure being predicted to reach $10.1 billion by 2027.

The much-popular pinball-like game pachinko, which is currently offered at 7,600 parlours across Japan, currently accounts for about 4% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). According to data provided by the leisure white paper of Japan Productivity Centre, pachinko contributed about ¥14.6 trillion in sales in 2020.

Other forms of gambling, such as betting on horse, motorcycle, speedboat, and keirin bicycle racing, also contribute trillions of yen annually to the country’s coffers.

As mentioned above, the nation, however, remains divided in regard to the planned expansion of its gambling industry mostly because people have been concerned about the potentially increasing problem gambling rates in the country. A 2021 Government survey showed there are approximately 2.8 million people, or about 2.2% of the country’s population, who can be categorized as gambling addicts. According to other estimates, about 3.2 million players in Japan were affected by problem gambling issues.

Earlier this year, a local media hub commissioned a poll which found that 45% of the Osaka residents who took part in the survey supported the integrated casino resort project. On the contrary, 38% were against it, while 17% were unsure whether or not to back the project. The survey also found that women and elderly people were more likely not to support the proposed integrated casino resort project.

Nationwide poll that was held after the IR legislation passed the local Legislature in 2018, 64.8% of the survey respondents were firmly against the project, while only 27.6% of the people who took part in it, backed the proposed gambling expansion through the establishment of an entertainment and gambling resort. At the same time, local groups that support problem gamblers have openly opposed the Osaka integrated casino resort project and expressed serious concerns, explaining that young people’s requests for professional help have increased lately.

Japanese Government to Try and Tackle Negative Effects of Gambling Expansion

Local people’s uncertainty has pushed the Government to unveil some measures that would see the authorities try to tackle problem gambling rates.

As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, Japan is set to restrict local high-roller customers’ number of visits to casino venues across the country. On the other hand, a gambler’s family members will be also given the chance to request to get them suspended from a certain casino.

Under the country’s piece of IR legislation, citizens of Japan will be required to pay a fee of as much as ¥6,000 for every 24 hours they spend in the casino. Other restrictive measures may follow in the months and years to come.

The establishment of the first casino is expected to spur the country’s economic growth but it remains to be seen whether the developers will manage to stick to the initial timeframe for the Osaka gambling venue to be up and running.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.