Business and political leaders in the northeast are betting on a casino as the brightest hope to speed reconstruction in a region battered by the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Supporters of the plan for a casino near Sendai are not publicizing their efforts yet, because they expect strong opposition from residents on the grounds that a casino would exploit victims of the disaster.

But they hope to campaign openly once lawmakers in Tokyo pass a measure to legalize casinos. Diet debate on the move, repeatedly delayed amid worries the measure could fuel crime and gambling addiction, may begin next month.