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Gov’t to approve plan for Japan’s 1st casino resort in Osaka

The government is set to approve a plan by Osaka Prefecture and city to open what will be Japan’s first casino resort in 2029, government sources said Wednesday.

The development comes as movement restrictions introduced during the coronavirus pandemic are removed, leading some local governments to reassess the idea of attracting tourists to a so-called integrated resort, or IR, comprised of a large hotel, conference rooms and gambling areas.

File image shows the planned integrated resort to be constructed the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay in Japan. (Courtesy of MGM Resorts International and Orix Corp.)(Kyodo)

The central government will hold a task force meeting as early as Friday, at which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and relevant ministers are expected to approve the Osaka IR plan, the sources said.

The Osaka prefectural and city governments aim to open the facility between the fall and winter of 2029 on the existing artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay, the sources said.

File photo shows Osaka’s artificial island of Yumeshima (front) in March 2023. (Kyodo)

The resort, created in partnership with MGM Resorts International of the United States and Japan’s Orix Corp., is expected to attract around 20 million visitors annually and bring 1.14 trillion yen ($8.5 billion) in annual economic benefits to the western Japan region centering on the prefecture.

Nagasaki Prefecture has also submitted a plan to host an IR but the task force is likely to postpone any decision on the basis it requires more time to further assess the detail, according to the sources.

In 2018, a law was enacted that allowed for the development of up to three IRs. But plans to stimulate the economy through casinos faced public opposition largely due to concerns about the negative impacts of gambling.

Momentum was also slowed by procedural delays amid the pandemic, withdrawals of foreign operators and a graft scandal that led to the arrest in 2019 of a lawmaker who campaigned for casino legalization.

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