Japan is set to unveil its integrated casino resorts plan later this year, but before the National Diet does, the government is embarking on a countrywide tour to explain its thinking to the public. However, just 100 people attended the first stop.

Japan casino bill Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe wants to make Japan more of a vacation destination, but before he approves the Diet’s gambling bill, he is sending a special committee around the country to explain the government’s thinking. (Image: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

The event was held in Tokyo, the capital city home to over 13.5 million people. Despite the low turnout, those in attendance made their voices heard by expressing various concerns. While the general public is thought to be adamantly against gambling liberalization, citizens voiced opinions both in support and opposition.

Proponents of the bill asked how soon the expected two casino resorts could open. Opponents inquired about what steps the legislature was taking to prevent the social consequences that might be generated by commercial gambling.

The casino policy hearing was the first of nine stops, with the tour set to conclude on August 29. Other hearings are planned in Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Sapporo, Nagoya, Toyama, and Takamatsu.

Bill Odds 

The special government committee that’s crisscrossing Japan to tell citizens of its plans has released few details, and that was no different in Tokyo. One resident, according to the Nikkei Asian Review, which attended the event, asked about the timetable to get gambling up and running. The panel said those details have yet to be discussed.

The policy hearing was perhaps more about taking in public concerns than revealing specifics of the gambling legislation. The Diet has been working on its resorts bill for months, and while details have been confirmed, information is beginning to leak.

Casino floors will reportedly be restricted to 15,000 square meters (161,458 square feet), and gaming will be effectively taxed at 22 percent for the mass market and 12 percent on VIP. The gambling age will be 20, per reports.

Perhaps most important to Japanese citizens is a reported costly entrance fee on citizens. Worried about a potential increase in problem gambling, the legislature is thought to be mulling a tariff that could reach as high as $100 per visit. The toll is Japan’s defense in stopping someone from gambling with money they can’t afford to lose.

City Favorites

With the national government traveling around the Asian country, local leaders are beginning to make their final decisions as to whether they even want one of the two casinos.

Japan passed its first integrated resorts bill last December with the thinking that gambling would increase tourism and tax revenue. It was also earmarked to provide an economic spur to perhaps lesser-known prefectures.

But eight months later, Tokyo, a city that needs no introduction, is allegedly one of the frontrunners for the two casino resorts. Local officials there have expressed mixed views on welcoming gambling, and Melco Resorts CEO Lawrence Ho opined earlier this year that Osaka is a better choice. As of August, Tokyo and Osaka are the favorites for the licenses.

As for the operators, Nevada-based Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts’ strong resume operating internationally make them the two likeliest candidates.