Osaka Prefecture Considers Foreigner Entry Tax Ahead of MGM Casino, 2025 Expo

Posted on: March 14, 2024, 02:53h. 

Last updated on: March 14, 2024, 11:30h.

Osaka government officials are considering placing a levy on foreigners who enter the prefecture.

Osaka entry fee MGM casino Japan
Osaka Prefecture Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura speaks at an Expo 2025 event in March 2023. Yoshimura wants his prefecture to charge foreigners an entry fee. (Image: Osaka Prefecture Government Office)

The Japan Times reports that Osaka Prefecture Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura supports charging foreigners a small entry fee. The news outlet reports the charge would mimic the hotel tax placed on domestic and international guests that currently ranges from ¥100 to ¥300 (US$0.68 to US$2).

The hotel tax, however, is only levied on rooms costing a minimum of ¥7000 (US$47.35) per night. The proposed entry tax would apply to all non-Japanese citizens.    

The coexistence of foreign tourists enjoying Osaka and local residents will become an important issue in the future,” Yoshimura said.

The governor has instructed a government committee to craft language to implement a foreigner entry fee program. Before such a rule could be executed, the tax would need to be approved by Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communication Ministry.

No other prefecture or city in Japan currently has a foreigner entry fee program. Yoshimura’s status as a member and leader of one of the primary opposition parties to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party could hinder Osaka’s wishes to implement the proposed law.

Tourism Developments

Osaka’s mulling of a foreigner entry fee comes ahead of what’s expected to be a rush of foreign tourism to the Kansai region, beginning with Osaka’s hosting of Expo 2025. The global expo begins in April 2025 and runs through mid-October.

Many of the Expo 2025 events will take place on the man-made Yumeshima Island, where MGM Resorts is leading a consortium in building an integrated casino resort at a cost of more than $8 billion.

The Expo 2025 theme is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” The international gathering will be attended by dozens of countries, with the focus of the exposition being to “save, empower, and connect lives.” Japan expects the expo to bring approximately 28 million visitors to Osaka during the 184-day display.

After the Expo ends, Yumeshima’s next major event will be the opening of MGM Osaka, which is targeting a 2029 or early 2030 finish.

MGM and Japanese financial services conglomerate Orix Corporation are equal 42.5% partners on the JPY1.27 trillion (US$8.6 billion) project. The remaining 15% stake is controlled by Panasonic, Kansai Electric, and West Japan Railway.

Mitigating Visitor Influx

The  National Diet approved up to three integrated resort casinos in 2018. They did so on the belief that Las Vegas-style gambling would make the Land of the Rising Sun a more attractive destination for leisure travel. Then-PM Shinzo Abe championed the casino push, with the late leader setting a target to welcome 60 million inbound visitors a year.

Osaka was the first prefecture to express interest in becoming a host region for one of the casinos. But Yoshimura says the country and affected prefectures must assure the populace that the influx of visitors doesn’t diminish the quality of life for residents.

The Osaka governor wants to allocate the foreigner entry fee revenue to fund programs to prevent crowding and sanitation efforts to maintain Osaka’s cleanliness.

Osaka and Japan wouldn’t be the first to implement such an entry fee. Indonesia, for example, charges foreigners 150,000 rupiah (US$9.63) per entry.