Controversial plans to construct Japan’s first-ever gambling resort have been approved by officials. The complex, which comprises a hotel, conference centre, shopping mall, and museum, in addition to the casino, will be located in Osaka and is set to open in 2029.
In Japan, gambling has been illegal for an extended period. However, a 2018 law was passed allowing exceptions for certain games such as poker or baccarat with the aim of increasing tourism and generating employment opportunities.
The public is divided on the matter, with some expressing concerns about an increase in gambling addiction and criminal activity. The resort’s overall size spans across 5.3 million square feet (49 hectares).
“We hope (the casino) will become a tourism base that promotes Japan’s charms to the world,” according to Prime Minster Fumio Kishida.
The project has received an initial investment of 1.8tn yen ($13.5bn, £10.7bn), with MGM, a US-based casino operator, and Japan’s Orix Group owning a 40% stake each in the company.
The remaining 20% will be held by local firms such as Kansai Electric Power, West Japan Rail, and Panasonic, all based in Osaka.
According to a Japanese news service, officials anticipate that the resort will attract around 20 million visitors per year, generating roughly 1tn yen in annual economic benefits for the region.
Although the proposal for the project was made years ago, it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a corruption scandal involving a ruling-party lawmaker accused of receiving bribes while overseeing casino policy.
With a population of around 126 million and the world’s third-largest economy, Japan is considered a lucrative market for gambling.
Additionally, it is in close proximity to wealthy Asian gamblers, particularly from China, with Macau being the only Chinese city where casino gambling is legal.
Furthermore, a similar proposal to build a casino at Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-themed amusement park, has been submitted by the Nagasaki prefecture.