Japanese officials have granted approval for the nation’s inaugural gambling resort, set to open in Osaka in 2029. While casinos have long been illegal in Japan, a 2018 law provided exceptions for certain games like poker and baccarat, with the aim of creating jobs and bolstering tourism.
A Divided Public Opinion
The decision to build the resort has not come without controversy, as the public remains divided. Many express concerns regarding the potential increase in crime and gambling addiction that could accompany the new complex.
Despite these worries, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida remains optimistic, reports the BBC, “We hope (the casino) will become a tourism base that promotes Japan’s charms to the world.“
A Massive Project for Japan first Casino
The 5.3 million square-foot complex will encompass more than just a casino; it will also include a hotel, conference centre, shopping mall, and museum.
With an initial investment of 1.8tn yen ($13.5bn, £10.7bn), the project has attracted major stakeholders, such as US-based casino operator MGM and Japan’s Orix Group, each owning a 40% share. Local companies like West Japan Rail, Kansai Electric Power, and Osaka-based Panasonic will own the remaining 20%.
Government officials predict that the resort will draw approximately 20 million visitors each year and generate about 1tn yen in annual economic benefits for the region. However, the project’s journey has not been smooth; it faced delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a corruption scandal involving a ruling-party lawmaker accused of accepting bribes while overseeing casino policy.
As the world’s third-largest economy with a population of around 126 million, Japan presents a promising market for gambling. Its close proximity to wealthy Asian gamblers, particularly from China, further enhances its appeal.
Macau, the only Chinese city where casino gambling is legal, has been a popular destination for such tourists. A comparable proposal has been submitted by the Nagasaki prefecture to construct a casino at Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-themed theme park.