AP | | Posted by Zarafshan Shiraz, Tokyo
Japan’s government on Friday approved a controversial plan to open the country’s first casino in the city of Osaka as it seeks to lure more foreign tourists.
The casino resort is to include conference facilities, an exhibition hall, a hotel and a theater and is expected to open as early as autumn 2029, four years after Osaka hosts a World Expo.
“It is expected to contribute to the local economy and the economic growth of all of Japan after the Osaka-Kansai Expo and become a tourism hub for transmitting the charms of Japan,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a meeting of the government’s IR, or integrated resort, promotion panel.
The panel said the plan meets the government’s requirements, including financial stability, contribution to the local economy and consideration of anti-addiction measures. It was formally approved by Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito.
The planned 1.8 trillion ($13.6 billion) project, submitted last year, will be located on an artificial island and is projected to have 20 million visitors and 520 billion yen ($3.9 billion) in revenue annually. Most of the revenue is expected to come from the casino.
The resort will be operated by Osaka IR KK, established by the Japanese subsidiary of U.S. casino operator MGM Resorts International, Japan’s Orix Corp. financial services group, and a number of regional investors.
Osaka is close to other attractions such as Universal Studios Japan and the tourist destination of Kyoto. But experts say its business could shrink in the future in a country with a rapidly aging and declining population.
Past attempts to build casinos have failed, often because of strong public opposition to gambling, even though state-run wagering on horse and boat racing is extremely popular. The Nikkei business newspaper said it recently surveyed Osaka residents and found that their opinions were divided, with 45% in favor of the casino plan and 38% against it.
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