National

Osaka pushes Yumeshima for casino and resort, 2025 World Expo

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka’s political and business leaders are moving forward with plans to develop Yumeshima, a man-made island in Osaka Bay, into what they hope will be the site of an integrated resort with casino gambling by 2024 and the World Exposition in 2025.

But with the Diet yet to decide how casinos will operate, strong competition from Paris for the 2025 World Expo, and the question of who will pay the estimated ¥70 billion to extend the city subway out to the Yumeshima, the city faces tough hurdles to realizing its dream for the island.

In a development plan announced on Tuesday by Osaka city, a 70-hectare portion of the island would be turned into an integrated resort facility with a casino, hotels, shopping arcades, galleries and convention center. Another 60 hectares would be set aside for the 2025 Expo.

Total construction costs under the plan are expected to be about ¥824 billion. Priority would be given to completing the integrated resort area first.

Osaka’s leaders assume the Diet will have passed legislation by the end of this year, setting out the framework for casino operations and dealing with problem gamblers, despite polls showing strong nationwide opposition to casinos.

They also assume an international casino operator will agree to set up operations on Yumeshima and be granted a license.

Part of that agreement, Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura indicated, would include paying a large portion of the estimated ¥70 billion it will take to construct a city subway line out to Yumeshima.

“We have to place some of the cost burden for the subway on those on the island who will be making a profit,” Yoshimura said late last month.

Yumeshima is also where Osaka wants to host the 2025 World Expo.

At the moment, there is little public enthusiasm for the city’s proposal, which would be based on the theme of health and medical technology.

Paris is Osaka’s main competitor and polls there show a higher degree of public and official support for hosting the expo. The winner will be decided in November 2018.

Yoshimura has said that if Osaka’s plan for a casino resort falls through and the city loses its bid for the 2025 Expo, new discussions on what to do with Yumeshima will take place.

“At this stage, though, talking about a ‘Plan B’ or ‘Plan C’ will just make bidding more difficult,” he said.