Tokyo Governor: Casinos Not of Interest

Tokyo’s governor, Yoichi Masuzoe (l.), dealt another blow to supporters of casino legalization in Japan, saying casinos are not a priority for the country’s capital and largest city. He further questioned the economic potential and said more discussion is needed about the potential problems the industry could bring.

Casinos are not a priority for Tokyo, says the governor of Japan’s capital and largest city.

“This is not at the top of my agenda. I don’t believe that you must have casinos to improve the economy,” said Yoichi Masuzoe.

Instead, the governor urged more debate about the potential problems casinos could bring, like money laundering.

Masuzoe’s cautious stance is in contrast to officials in the western city of Osaka who have been openly lobbying to host a casino resort and aggressively courting operators.

Many of the biggest names in the industry, including Las Vegas Sands, Melco Crown Entertainment, Genting Singapore, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International, are vying to win licenses to operate casinos in Japan, a market brokerage CLSA estimates could generate annual gaming revenues of US$40 billion over the next decade, centered on super-resorts in Tokyo and Osaka.

Pro-casino lawmakers had hoped to secure passage of a casino legalization measure in the current session of the National Diet—to be followed in 2015 with a more detailed bill covering licensing, regulation and tax—and thus possibly see the first resort openings in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. But those hopes have all but faded as the bill failed to make the priority list of legislation to be considered before the session ends on 22nd June.

Supporters say they’ll try to salvage the bill in a shorter special session expected to be convened this fall.