The land ministry said Thursday that it would be difficult to decide by the end of the year whether to approve proposals by Osaka and Nagasaki prefectures to host casino resorts, in a move that could delay their planned openings in 2029 and 2027, respectively.

Osaka and Nagasaki are seeking to host so-called integrated resorts, comprising a large hotel, conference rooms and gambling areas, assuming they are able to gain approval sometime after fall this year and Oct. 1, respectively.

But the screening process has been prolonged with discussions between the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and local governments still underway.

Their resort plans, outlining the location and layout of facilities and expenditures, were presented to the ministry in April amid public concerns over gambling addiction and with the viability of the projects called into question in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Osaka plans to construct a resort on Yumeshima, an artificial island in Osaka Bay, and its proposed measures to prevent land subsidence and soil contamination have been under scrutiny.

Nagasaki, meanwhile, has faced questioning over the feasibility of its funding plan, which is based on the participation of foreign financial institutions.

"From a practical viewpoint, it seems quite difficult," a ministry official said at a meeting with the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan when asked about whether it can make a decision on approval of the proposals within the year.

Japan legalized casinos in 2018 in an effort to boost tourism and regional economies. Osaka and Nagasaki are the only candidate sites to host casino resorts under the country's liberalized gambling laws.