Osaka lays the groundwork in ambitious plan to host both expo and casino resort

by

Staff Writer

As the government finalizes the basic guidelines for casino operations, Osaka is pushing forward with a separate but related plan to host the 2025 World Expo — if Japan’s bid beats out the competition — at the new integrated gambling resort envisioned in Osaka Bay.

Earlier this week, a government committee announced a basic draft plan for the operation of so-called integrated resorts with casinos. The guidelines will be reflected in a casino bill to be submitted to the Diet in autumn.

Next month, the government will also solicit public comment on the proposals in the plan in 10 different locations.

Unlike many local governments, Osaka enjoys strong political support for the casino gambling, and is therefore pushing to get one of the country’s first built on the artificial island of Yumeshima, in Osaka Bay. A related move is Osaka’s effort to host the 2025 World Expo also on the island, ideally soon after the prospective casino might open.

On Wednesday, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, who represents a district in neighboring Wakayama Prefecture, announced at an Osaka symposium that a coalition of Diet members that formed to support the bid would step up its international and domestic promotion efforts in September.

“This bid is for Japan’s national pride, and its one we have to win,” Nikai told an audience of about 400 senior business and political leaders. “As a Diet member from the Kansai area, I realized we have to do something to help the region because too many things are concentrated in Tokyo.”

Osaka’s primary bidding rival for the 2025 Expo is Paris, which also hosts the Bureau International des Expositions, the governing body that will award the Expo late next year. In November, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui and other officials will travel to Paris to present more detailed plans for the 2025 Expo.

That trip comes a month before the Diet is expected to approve the rules for casino resort operations. After that, local governments, including Osaka, that are interested in building an integrated resort can draw up plans and begin the process of applying for a casino license.

But along with the economic benefits of hosting a casino comes concerns about the social costs, such as problem gambling.

The committee that drew up the draft plan recommended that Japanese visitors be limited to a certain number of casino visits per month and per week and that no minors be allowed entrance. Also in the draft are proposals that only one casino be established per integrated resort facility, with a limitation on floor space.

Japanese visitors would be charged an entrance fee to the casino floor and would have to show their My Number identification cards to track the number of times they’ve entered the casino, according to the draft.

The integrated resorts would be required to include international conference halls, art museums, tourist centers and other cultural facilities in their design proposals. Revenue generated by the casino operations would be expected to help rejuvenate local economies and boost tourism industries.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry would grant casino resort licenses and monitor their operation. But local governments would choose which operators’ proposals they wanted to submit to the central government, giving them control to make the final decision based on whether they believe such operators have the ability to help local economies and tourism industries and how convenient they are in terms of transportation access.