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National casino ban might fold under ‘Abenomics’

JIJI

The government may insert a plan to lift the nation’s casino ban in the new economic growth strategy to be drawn up in June, informed sources said.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is examining the idea of designating special zones in which resort complexes featuring hotels, conference halls and casinos would be built to attract tourists and revitalize regional economies, the sources said.

The strategy is included under the three arrows of “Abenomics,” alongside aggressive monetary easing and flexible fiscal spending. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who backs the plan, told the Lower House Budget Committee in March that lifting the casino ban would produce “sufficient benefits.”

The sources said the ruling LDP-New Komeito coalition will consider a system under which the government would designate special zones based on requests from local authorities to build integrated resort complexes that would be privately operated.

Giving casinos the green light, however, might anger residents concerned about crime. To offset such concerns, the state may consider using gambling revenue to perk up their local economies, the sources added. Some areas are already looking into the possibility of taking the offer.

Abe’s LDP has talked about lifting the ban on casinos since 2001, and politicians from the LDP, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan set up a group in 2009 to discuss the proposal.

Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, the coleaders of Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party), also back casinos.