Until a few months ago, it seemed a sure thing that casinos would be open in Tokyo by the time the Olympics rolled around in 2020. For years now, a group of lawmakers have been working to legalize gambling resorts in Japan, and Tokyo was considered the ideal place for them thanks to the capital’s ease of access to foreign tourists and the relative affluence of its residents. It was former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara who first proposed it back in 1999 when he invited Diet members to a special promotional event he had set up in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, complete with slot machines. His successor, Naoki Inose, was also quick to jump on the casino bandwagon.
But not Inose’s successor, Yoichi Masuzoe, who assumed the post in February. Asahi Shimbun has characterized Masuzoe’s approach as “cautious,” but he seems pretty determined to keep casinos out of the capital. Earlier this year, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government leased a large tract of public land on the waterfront to BMW for a test-drive course and showroom, land that had previously been set aside for an integrated resort that included a casino. When the metropolitan government was reorganized in July, the division that was nominally in charge of the casino plan was practically made irrelevant.