Only three Japanese regions so far express interest in hosting new casino

TOKYO, Jan 28, 2019, Kyodo. Osaka city and prefecture and two other prefectures in western Japan plan to apply for hosting newly legalized casino resorts, but dozens more are reluctant to do so amid concerns over public safety, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

The survey, conducted in November and December, covered all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and 20 major cities that are eligible to apply for the so-called integrated resorts encompassing casinos, hotels and conference rooms. The government aims to see such resorts, to be built at up to three locations, to start operating by the mid-2020s.

Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka, joining hands to bid for hosting one of them, along with Wakayama Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture said they expect the facilities to create jobs and bring other positive economic impacts.

The local governments have already finished selecting candidate sites and plan to flesh out their plans.

Nagoya, a central Japan city in Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile, said it is positively considering making an application and is looking for a suitable location.

Five local governments — Tokyo, Hokkaido, Ibaraki Prefecture and the cities of Chiba and Yokohama — also said they are considering the possibility, but many are still at the research stage.

Tokyo and Yokohama, which are seen as attractive areas for hosting casinos by resort operators, said they are weighing up the pros and cons, while Hokkaido, a popular tourist destination, said the city of Tomakomai could be a leading candidate site.

A total of 17 local governments said they are “undecided” on the matter, leaving room for the bidding race for hosting casino resorts to heat up in the future.

Meanwhile, 40 local governments said they will “not apply” for the program.

Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan cited concerns over possible deterioration of public safety and an increase of people saddled with gambling debts, while Shimane Prefecture in western Japan said it is promoting tourism by “taking advantage of nature and history.”

Japan ended a ban on casino gambling through the integrated resorts promotion law that was enacted last July, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government hoping that such facilities will lure more overseas visitors and boost regional economies outside Tokyo.

But the idea has been controversial, with critics saying it will lead to an increase in gambling addiction.

Under the law, the central government plans to select locations for casino resorts by assessing potential economic impacts and other factors after local governments submit their project plans.

As part of efforts to tackle addiction, people living in Japan will be charged a 6,000 yen ($55) entrance fee for casinos and face limits on the number of visits, while foreign visitors will be able to enter free of charge.

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