April 18th, 2023: Japan is officially joining the highly competitive gambling industry with the approval of its first casino resort in 2029. Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka have partnered to push through with the proposal at a time when the government has started easing the travel restrictions associated with the pandemic.
Osaka isn’t the local government to submit plans for integrated resorts. But, sensing the opportunities by relaxing protocols, several local governments assessed their tourism programs by considering an integrated resort that boasts hotels, conference rooms, and gambling areas. Osaka’s plan gets the government’s nod, as it aims to build the casino resort on its artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay by the winter of 2029.
Japan is making a bold move by approving its first casino
Casinos have long been illegal in the country, and the option for many interested players is to check out offshore licensed casinos or fly to neighboring countries to gamble. But in 2018, the government passed a law that exempts games like baccarat or poker from the prohibition to generate more jobs and boost tourism. As part of the new legislation, the Japanese government approved three initial casino licenses, with a 30% gaming tax to be paid to the central and local governments. Also, the legislation requires that operators only assign up to 3% of the total resort space to gambling areas.
Entry into these gambling areas shall be free for international visitors, but locals must pay 6,000 yen ($50) to enter, and they’re limited to just three visits a week or up to ten trips monthly.
Here’s what to expect from these Japanese-integrated resorts
In addition to its gambling areas, the proposed 5.3 million-square-foot (49ha) complex will feature a hotel, conference center, museum, and shopping mall. According to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the government hopes this project can boost tourism. The project boasts an initial investment of 1.8tn yen ($13.5bn, £10.7bn), with MGM and Japan’s Orix Group as the majority owners, with a 40% stake each in the company. In addition, West Japan Rail, Kansai Electric Power, and Panasonic own 20% of the company.
Officials expect to attract over 20 million visitors annually and expect the project to contribute roughly 1tn Yen to the Japanese economy. The proposal was submitted years ago but took a backseat due to the pandemic and a corruption scandal involving a ruling-party lawmaker.
A new resort casino fits the growing gambling Japanese market. Many experts see Japan as a promising gambling market, and it’s the world’s third-largest economy with a population of 126 million. Also, Japan is strategically located in countries with rising casino players, including China. Chinese players and Japanese locals who want to enjoy gambling can visit Macau, the only Chinese city where legal gambling is permitted. Aside from Osaka, Nagasaki has also proposed to set up a casino at the Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-themed park.