Tokyo’s first woman governor, Yuriko Koike, is in favor of opening a recreational complex, including a casino, in the Japanese capital, however, before that can happen gambling in Japan must first be legalized.

Winning the July election as an independent candidate, the veteran politician, along with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) favor the regulation and legalization of the casino industry, but in the past have not been able to get the necessary votes. Now that the LDP is no longer reliant upon any political parties, including its coalition partner Komeito, to approve any proposed legislation, draft legislation to make casinos legal in certain areas of the country is being prepared by the LDP, but it is not known when the legislation will be sent to Parliament. The LDL now enjoys a majority in both houses of the legislature. While gambling and betting are generally prohibited under Japan law, exceptions including horse racing and certain motor sports and local government-operated lotteries are permitted.

In an interview with NHK World, Koike, who believes the casino plan would help to attract more overseas visitors and make the city more attractive, said that in the event that the proposed legislation advances, the metropolitan government “will need to take measures against casino-related problems, such as gambling addiction,” as reported by the news agency Hoy. Some members of the LDP are in favor of opening a casino complex in Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest cities in Japan. Inspired by the models utilized in the gambling hubs of Taiwan, Singapore, and Macau, exclusive gambling legislation would be created in designated areas. If the bill, often referred to as the integrated resorts (IR) bill, is successful, it is expected that two licenses for mega-casinos in Osaka and Tokyo will be issued during the initial stage, with licenses for smaller casinos to be issued later.

The IR legislation process progresses, development could begin in either 2019 or the following year, with Japan’s first integrated casino opening by 2022. So far, the two top contenders for the Osaka and Tokyo licenses are Japanese billionaire and gaming mogul Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment and Sega Sammy. Paradise City in Incheon, South Korea is currently being developed by the latter, while the former is developing the Okada Manila resort in the Philippines.

When and if the casino legislation passes, Japan could be positioned to become second to the second largest legal gaming market in Asia. The hope was to have Japan’s first resort casino opened in time for the 2020 Olympic Games to be held there, but as time goes on that is looking increasingly doubtful.