Integrated Resorts Projects in Japan Carry on Amid Turmoil

It is only in recent years, there has been a world wide push for reform and updating of gambling laws. No place is this more prominent than in Japan. The “Casino Bill (IR Promotion Act)” was enacted in December 2016, and the “IR Improvement Law” was enacted in July 2018, that a movement to lift the ban on casinos has finally appeared in Japan. Historically, the country has always had a wary relationship with casinos and games of chance. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was a supporter of the move, was quoted as saying that he believed the measures would encourage tourism and improve the economy of the nation.

Integrated Resort (IR) refers to a “complete resort” that incorporates not just a casino, but also a variety of entertainment and lodging options as well as other tourist attractions in a single location. Although it has casino amenities, it is a complete tourism facility that would definitely appeal to the safety and comfort preferences of foreigners as well as locals.

In the recent past, Japanese residents had to travel abroad in order to experience the thrill of gambling in a genuine casino. However, in the not-too-distant future, they will be able to play games of chance in their home country. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who are worried about the decline in public safety and the rise in gambling addiction and oppose the move.

Despite Shinzo Abe’s terrible assassination, Japanese support for integrated resorts is unlikely to decrease. The results of Japan’s House of Councilors elections on Sunday are one indication that this is, in fact, the case.

Elections in Japan Enforce the IR Bid

Recent elections in Komeito showed both the Japan Restoration Party and the Liberal Democratic Party as victors. They now hold 146 out of 248 seats, which gives them a majority. Party members will now be able to influence government policy. Shinzo Abe’s initial idea of three new casino resorts in Japan, which would open up the nation to tourists, support Japan’s prefectures, and bring in a significant amount of tax income, is being pursued by both parties.

The integrated resort in Osaka, which is expected to open soon awaiting clearance from the government, required strong political backing in order for the resistance to the project to not create difficulties and the project is now almost sure to continue unhindered.

Osaka’s Citizens Have Expressed Valid Concerns

Of course, Osaka’s local opposition is not without merit, and it should be heard and considered. In Osaka prefecture, the Japan Restoration Party, a natural ally of the Liberal Democratic Party, controls the seats. So, if the party so chooses, it may halt any attempts to initiate new investigations into local complaints.

The anti-integrated resort organization in Osaka however was able to get the 2% of votes needed to start a referendum asking residents whether they want one developed on the prefecture’s land.

According to a recent article in CasinosNavi, a citizens’ group has submitted a petition with 210,000 signatures to the election management committees of each municipality in Osaka Prefecture asking for the adoption of a “referendum ordinance” on whether Osaka Prefecture and the city should bid for IRs. A referendum ordinance may be passed only if at least 146,000 people sign a petition asking for it to be put on the ballot. On the other hand, the local government is under no duty to comply with this proposal and or to submit it to the national government for further consideration thereafter.

MGM to begin construction in Osaka in late 2023

Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts International’s CEO, and president stated that if the company gets the go-ahead to develop a casino resort in Osaka, Japan, the company hopes to begin foundation work in late 2023. He went on to say that MGM Resorts, which has Japan’s Orix Corp as its primary partner for the Osaka project, wanted to hear from the national government of Japan “around October of this year” on whether or not the plan would be allowed to go further. He also added that “Last week we submitted our area development plan to the government of Japan alongside our partners at ORIX and the city of Osaka,” and that “This is the final milestone before licensing decisions will be made hopefully in October of this year. We continue to work closely with the national government to obtain a license that will hopefully be awarded later this year to bring a fully integrated resort into Japan.”

Preliminary estimates put the cost of Osaka’s upcoming hotel and resort complex at $10 billion, with a planned launch date of 2029.

More people are in favor of integrated resorts now than ever before, according to the most recent election results, and despite concerns from a minority of citizens, the interests of the many will decide the future of casinos in Japan.