As reported by the daily newspaper “The Japan Times,” the government is projected to approve a plan by Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka to officially open Japan’s first integrated casino-resort in 2029, government sources said today.

Re-emergence of development plans:

The intention to develop a casino-resort came to light after the lifting of travel restrictions in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting several local governments to reconsider the idea of luring tourists to a so-called integrated resort (IR), which consists of a big hotel, conference halls and gambling zones.

In this regard, the central government will convene a task force meeting as soon as possible, which is Friday, April 14, where Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and relevant ministers are anticipated to officially approve the Osaka IR plan, sources said.

Furthermore, sources said: “The Osaka prefectural and city governments aim to open the facility between the fall and winter of 2029 on the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay.”

In addition, the sources said that “Nagasaki Prefecture has also submitted a plan to host an IR, but the task force is likely to postpone any decision on the basis that it requires more time to further assess the details.”

Expectations of a casino-resort:

The newest casino-resort, which will be managed by partners US-based MGM Resorts International and Japan-based ORIX, is projected to lure nearly 20 million tourists yearly and contribute ¥1.14 trillion, which is approximately 8.5 billion US dollars, to the annual economic used for the prefecture-centered area of western Japan.

Public opposition to the economy’s reliance on casinos:

During 2018, a law was adopted that permitted a creation of a maximum of 3 IRs. However, plans to boost the economy via casinos have met with strong public opposition, because of the concerns about the negative aspects of gambling.

In addition, these plans have been moving slowly because of the procedural delays amid the pandemic, the withdrawal of foreign operators and the corruption scandal that occurred in 2019 during which an MP campaigning for the legalization of casinos was detained.

Conditional approval:

These plans for a casino-resort in Osaka were first anticipated last year, as a basic agreement, aka the Osaka/Yumeshima Area Specified Complex Tourist Facilities Development Basic Agreement, between MGM Resorts International and ORIX was signed during February 2022.

However, it has also been postponed because of the increased concerns over the risk of runoff and soil contamination on Yumeshima.

In this regard, people familiar with the matter say: “The plan is expected to get conditional approval.”