Japan’s Diet Still Looking at Casinos

Japanese lawmakers may reintroduce a bill that would legalize casino gaming during the current legislative session. But gaming halls in the country are years in the future, according to reports; some experts say the first casino may not open until 2020 at the earliest. Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui (l.) wants to have his casino open by the Olympics.

Angling to open by Summer Olympics

If and when casinos are legalized in Japan, the cities of Osaka and Yokohama may be the first to host a resort with gaming, according to the Japan Times. But experts say the country’s first casino is unlikely to open before 2020.

More than 20 municipalities have expressed interest in developing integrated resorts, which would be anchored by casino hotels and fleshed out with theme parks, convention centers, shopping malls, and concert venues. The island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay is one possible location. Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui says the prefecture wants to open a casino in the next five years if possible, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“The Olympics will bring lots of people around the world to Japan, and, along with an integrated resort, all of Osaka wants to have something for them,” Matsui said.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi has allocated funds for IR-related research. A 50-hectare (123-acre) plot of land next to Yamashita Park is the optimal location, the Times reported.

But Takashi Kiso, CEO of the Tokyo-based International Casino Institute says it will may be impossible for local governments to develop and open any resorts before the summer games. “The only way an IR will open (by 2020) is if the government allows it to partially open before the Olympic games,” he said.

Last month, gaming consultant Innovation Group announced that it had been chosen as “an industry advisor for the project team chosen by the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan to complete a comprehensive research study corresponding to the proposed integrated resort legislation,” GGRAsia reported. But the company quickly withdrew that announcement with a statement saying it had “erred in implying that it was engaged directly by the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan, that the Cabinet Secretariat supports gaming legislation, and that legislation is pending.”

According to an article in Forbes magazine, Japan could become the third largest casino market in the world, behind Macau and United States after casino legislation is passed. Supporters have promised to introduce a revised IR promotion bill during the current Diet session, the first step in what would likely be a two-part legislative process.