National

Public hearings on Japan's casino resort policies to be held in nine cities

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With its basic recommendations for operating integrated resort casinos now complete, the central government will hold public hearings across the country this month to explain the requirements and the policies to address problem gambling and concerns about money laundering.

While local government officials from Hokkaido to Kyushu are moving forward with plans for integrated resorts (IR), strong public concerns remain about increased gambling addiction and crime.

From Aug. 17-29, a government committee established to promote integrated resorts will hold hearings in nine cities on how casinos would work in practice.

A report released earlier this week on the basic guidelines for operation, which includes an upper limit on casino floor space, restrictions on participation by Japanese nationals, and policies to deal with gambling addicts and money laundering, will form the basis of Diet discussions this autumn.

The Diet is expected to finalize a bill on casino guidelines by the end of the year. Due to a lengthy bureaucratic process for granting licenses, it is unlikely the first casinos would open until after 2020.

Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido are among the top candidates for receiving the first two or three licenses. Osaka has taken the lead nationally on pushing for a casino, with Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui and his Nippon Ishin no Kai party offering substantial advice to the IR promotion committee and formally drawing up specific plans to host a casino resort on Yumeshima, a man-made island in Osaka Bay.

Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts and Entertainment has said it is prioritizing efforts to win the Osaka casino license over Tokyo, and is favored by many local politicians in the ruling parties. Tokyo has expressed mixed signals on opening a casino resort but has attracted much attention from American resort operators Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International.

In Hokkaido, Tomakomai — the port not far from Chitose International Airport — and Kushiro have both expressed interest in opening a resort.

Meanwhile, in Nagoya, Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura announced Tuesday that a committee would be formed Thursday to look into building a casino resort on the man-made island where Chubu Centrair International Airport is located.

Yokohama is not one of the cities where hearings will be held. Recently re-elected Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi, who had previously favored a casino resort despite strong local opposition, said following the July 30 election that while a lot of residents were in favor, there was a lot of unease.

The hearings will be held in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Sapporo, Nagoya, Toyama and Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture.