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The resignation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to complicate an already stalled plan to introduce casino resorts in the country.

In parliamentary remarks in June, Abe expressed an eagerness to push ahead with the casino development even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tourism is expected to recover once the infectious disease is contained. IR will help Japan become an advanced tourism country,” Abe said at the time, referring to the development of integrated resorts that house casinos.

The government plans to develop up to three casino resorts as an engine of the country’s economic growth. It planned to formalize its criteria for selecting hosts as early as January this year.

In December last year, however, a bribery scandal involving Tsukasa Akimoto, state minister in charge of the casino development, came to light, forcing the government to put on hold the process of formalizing the criteria.

The coronavirus outbreak dealt an additional blow to the casino development. “We need to focus on responses to the coronavirus. When the criteria will be formalized remains to seen,” a government official said.

Abe’s resignation may stall the process further, possibly affecting the government’s goal of opening casino resorts in the middle of the 2020s.

The delayed process is affecting the preparations of local governments seeking to host casinos.

The Osaka prefectural and city governments have abandoned their plans to open a casino resort before the 2025 World Expo in the city.

The city government of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, has said its plan to open a casino resort in the late 2020s may be postponed. There also has been a delay in the preparations of the Wakayama and Nagasaki prefectural governments.

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