The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito agreed to allow up to three “integrated resorts” (IR) featuring casinos in Japan. This means the two parties settled the largest issue regarding the IR implementation bill, which will apparently prompt municipalities to actively compete for inviting gambling facilities. On the other hand, some municipalities have changed their stance toward the IR, becoming wary of casino owing to citizens’ concern about gambling addiction.
“Hopes for increased consumer spending,” “big cities have advantage”
The Fukui prefectural government expects the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen will be extended to its Tsuruga City from Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture around spring in 2023. Currently, as the number of foreign tourists visiting Fukui Prefecture remains low, the prefectural government strongly hopes that the JR Shinkansen will create the greatest opportunity to attract foreign tourists.
The candidate site for the casino is Echizen City, where a new Shinkansen station is scheduled to be built. In March this year, business leaders of the Fukui Association of Corporate Executives including Fukui Bank President Masahiro Hayashi handed a written proposal to Echizen City Mayor Toshiyuki Nara, calling for the development of the area around the JR new station. In the proposal, business leaders requested the construction of not only casino facilities but also facilities where visitors can experience traditional crafts around the new station, taking advantage of 100 hectares of farmland. “Such facilities will certainly contribute to increasing local consumer spending,” emphasized President Hayashi.
Besides the Fukui Prefectural government, four other prefectures–Hokkaido, Osaka, Wakayama and Nagasaki–are working to attract IR-related facilities. Yokohama City and Aichi Prefecture are currently considering whether to invite such facilities.
Under the current system, either prefectural governments or ordinance-designated cities can apply for IR facilities and the national government screens applicants to select winners. In the screening process, the administration intends to attach importance to the positive economic effect the IR facilities would bring to a region. Some municipalities’ officials voice concern and disappointment, saying, “Large cities have an advantage over smaller ones, especially when the number of IR facilities is limited to only three across the country.”
“From the viewpoint of regional revitalization, we hope the government will give consideration to local cities,” said Nagasaki Prefectural Governor Hodo Nakamura. Other local municipalities will perhaps voice the same hope from now.
Not only Japanese municipalities but also private casino operators overseas have paid close attention to the ruling parties’ deliberation on the IR legislation. Multiple foreign private casino operators are actively looking into the feasibility of opening casinos in Tokyo, Yamanashi, Fukuoka, Okinawa and other prefectures. “We are focusing on airport, seaport and tourist spot as the key words for judging the profitability of candidate sites for casino facilities,” said one of the casino operators, who already seems eager to move forward.
On the other hand, countermeasures against gambling addition – one of the “two wheels” on which the IR development rolls – have not made progress, although some lawmakers have attempted to enact a bill for countermeasures against gambling addition.
The Chiba city government is examining a plan to invite casino facilities to the Makuhari New City area. In the assessment released in 2015, the city government estimated that the project could bring about an economic ripple effect of 350 billion yen a year with the creation of about 26,000 jobs. Chiba City Mayor Toshihito Kumagai visited Singapore to study its casinos, which accelerated the momentum.
However, when the city government conducted a survey of gambling addiction among about 1,000 citizens who are 20 years of age or older in March this year, 7.8% of male respondents and 1.2% of female respondents were found likely to be addicted to gambling. “The number was higher than expected,” said one of the city officials in charge of the casino project. “We will continue to pay attention to Diet deliberations to learn how the government will deal with the issue of gambling addition and other problems.” The city government has suspended its efforts to invite casino facilities.