Tokyo and four prefectural governments delivered a petition to the national government Thursday calling for a ban on casinos to be lifted, saying it would generate income and create jobs amid the nationwide economic slump.

Osaka Gov. Fusae Ohta and officials of the Tokyo, Shizuoka, Wakayama and Miyazaki governments handed the petition to Yoshitada Konoike, state minister in charge of crisis prevention and special deregulation zones.

The five prefectures also held the inaugural meeting of a working-level study group on the economic effects of casinos and the legal framework needed to operate them.

Officials of the prefectures agreed to submit recommendations by the end of fiscal 2003, outlining legal changes and tax systems to realize their goal. They will meet bimonthly and organize events and seminars to build public consensus.

Osaka’s Ohta, who was at the meeting, said the group wants other local governments to push for legalization.

Under a national government program to establish special deregulation zones to reinvigorate the economy, a number of prefectural and municipal governments have already applied to create casino districts.

These include Osaka Prefecture; Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture; Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture; and Toba, Mie Prefecture.

The National Police Agency has rejected the proposal, pointing out that wagering cash is a form of gambling prohibited under the Criminal Code. The Justice Ministry has meanwhile expressed its readiness to discuss the issue.

In October, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government invited lawmakers and industry officials to experience gambling at a casino-style event.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara is one of the loudest backers of legalizing casinos.

The group has released estimates that a Las Vegas-style casino district combining hotels, cinemas and other facilities would have an economic impact of 220 billion yen and create 14,000 jobs.

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