(Yomiuri: February 19, 2015 – p. 2)
The government plans to open integrated casino resort facilities in Yokohama and Osaka before the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The two cities were chosen from among more than 20 municipalities that had announced bids for hosting casino resorts on account of ongoing redevelopment projects, which make it easy to secure land for projects.
The Yokohama municipal office envisages attracting a casino resort to Yamashita Pier (50-hectares), which is scheduled for redevelopment. Osaka is looking to build a casino facility on Yumeshima, a reclaimed island in Osaka Bay. There are 150 hectares of unused land on the island, which is proximate to Kansai International Airport. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is spearheading the city’s effort to attract a casino project.
In 2013 a bipartisan group of parliamentarians calling for the promotion of the international tourism industry submitted to the Diet a bill to lift a ban on casinos. It was deliberated on at the Diet but scrapped due to the Lower House dissolution for a snap election.
The pro-casino parliamentarian league is planning to present a similar bill to the current Diet session, but it remains unforeseen whether it will be adopted for enactment. The Komeito and several opposition parties are taking a cautious stance, as they fear the spread of gambling addiction.
The Abe cabinet identifies integrated resort projects as a pillar of its growth strategy. A task force has been set up inside the Cabinet Secretariat in anticipation of the 2020 Games. The selection of candidate cities before the enactment of the bill is aimed at making it easier for them to make preparations in advance. Even if the bill is enacted during the current session, casino resorts in these cities will not fully open before 2020.
Cities and prefectures that have declared their candidacies for hosting casino resorts include Otaru in Hokkaido, Akita, Tokyo, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, and Okinawa. Tokyo and Okinawa had been initially thought to lead the race, but momentum ebbed with the election of new governors.
It remains possible that other candidate sties will open casinos after 2020.