Just Three of Japan’s 47 Prefectures Want Integrated Resort Casino

Posted on: January 28, 2019, 09:55h. 

Last updated on: January 28, 2019, 09:55h.

Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, but to date, only three regional governments have expressed public support for welcoming an integrated resort casino.

Japan casino integrated resort gambling
Japan’s prefectures don’t want to bet on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s expansion of casino gaming. (Image: Getty)

A special committee of appointed lawmakers from the National Diet – Japan’s legislative arm – is currently forming regulations that will govern the country’s forthcoming gaming industry. The county is legalizing three resort casinos, each which will require an investment totaling several billions of dollars.

Japan is viewed by the world’s major casino operators as the greatest prize in the industry since Macau expanded commercial gambling in 2002. But while interest is sky-high, prefecture governments have largely sought to avoid being targeted to host one of the resorts.

The prefectures of Osaka, Wakayama, and Nagasaki are the only three governments that have expressed support for a casino. Kyodo News surveyed officials in all 47 prefectures and reported that 40 don’t plan to throw their name into the bidding hat.

The liberalization of commercial gambling remains largely unpopular among the general public. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his controlling Liberal Democratic Party, however, believe casinos will help grow the country’s tourism market and associated MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) sector.

The prime minister says the goal is to make Japan a more “tourism-oriented” nation.

Good News

For the three governments that are in the running, the news that the vast majority of prefectures won’t be participating is welcomed.

Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui said the more bidders his prefecture receives, the better.

From a business perspective, more options mean that we can demand something great,” Matsui explained. “The more options there are to negotiate with, the harder each of the operators will work. We will be able to choose a place that will really contribute to the growth of Osaka.”

Las Vegas Sands is expected to bid on Osaka, and is seen by analysts as an odds-on favorite for licensure. MGM Resorts is considered the frontrunner for Yokohama, despite the city’s home prefecture of Kanagawa still not officially announcing its candidacy.

Bidding Process

The federal government will oversee the casino licensing progression, and decide specifically where the resorts will be allowed. Prefectures will be evaluated on the potential benefit allowing the regions to host a casino would provide.

Operators such as Sands and MGM will partner with Japanese companies, as well as individual prefectures, in bidding the federal government for licensure. Critics to commercial gambling – and there are many in Japan – say the resorts will lead to an increase in crime, and elevated rates of problem gambling.

To help prevent addiction, Japanese lawmakers are requiring residents to pay a ¥6,000 (US $55) entrance fee per visit. Citizens will also be limited to three entrances in a single week and 10 times per month.

Foreigners, however, will be able to come and go free of charge and as frequently as they wish. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average annual salary in Japan is just shy of $41,000.