Japan approves plan to build country’s first casino

Casino dealer
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Japan officials have approved a plan to build the country’s first casino, with the ¥1.8tn ($13.5bn) resort in the western city of Osaka set to open in 2029.

According to Reuters, the casino plan has been given the nod to help boost tourism in the country. The resort will have hotels, a conference centre, a shopping mall, a museum, a ferry terminal and a helicopter pad. 

Located on Yumeshima, a reclaimed island in Osaka Bay due to host the 2025 World Expo, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that the resort will help the area grow economically following the Expo and help boost tourist spending post-pandemic. The resort is targeting 520bn yen of revenue annually.

US casino operator MGM Resorts International and local partner Orix Corp are leading the Osaka project and will each have a 40 per cent stake ownership, with the remaining 20 per cent being held by another 20 companies according to a local government document.

The document also said ¥550bn will be provided by MUFG Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp for the resort’s project financing. 

“It is an honour to be selected by the Government of Japan to develop a tourism project of this scale,” commented MGM Resorts CEO & President Bill Hornbuckle.

“We couldn’t be more excited to get started on the development of one of Japan’s first Integrated Resorts in the great City of Osaka, and we look forward to working with our partner ORIX and Osaka Prefecture/City to realise this long-held goal.”

While Japan is viewed as a market with potential since it is the world’s third-largest economy and has a population of 126 million, many opinion polls have shown the public is worried about a rise in crime and gambling addiction.

Japan had previously banned casinos and other forms of private gambling, but the resort will be the first casino property built since a 2018 integrated resort law was introduced which allowed casino games at officially approved establishments.

Previous casino plans in the country have been put on hold due to the pandemic and a corruption scandal which resulted in a high-profile lawmaker being arrested. Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts have all pulled out of planned projects.

By the government’s April 2022 deadline, only Osaka and the southwestern region of Nagasaki had submitted bids. Regarding the Nagasaki project, which is led by Casinos Austria International, the government recently stated it needed more review time.