Japan Is Building Its First Casino, Controversially

It's set to open in Osaka in 2029
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2023 5:10 PM CDT
Japan Is Building Its First Casino, Controversially
Protesters gather in front of the Osaka prefectural head office after Japan’s government approved a controversial plan to open its first casino in Osaka, Friday, April 14, 2023.   (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan is on course to get its first casino, but the country hasn't rushed into it: Japan legalized casinos in 2018 and it has taken five years for the first project to gain approval. The government announced Friday that a proposed casino complex in Osaka had gotten the green light as part of a $13.5 billion project expected to open in 2029, Reuters reports. The local government, which rejected calls for a referendum, says the complex—which will also include hotels, entertainment venues, and a shopping complex—will attract 20 million visitors a year from Japan and overseas.

Casinos were legalized in the country after many years of lobbying from foreign casino operators. The project's critics argued that too many people in Japan already have gambling problems, the Guardian reports. Beyond the country's thousands of pachinko parlors, legal gambling options are limited to the lottery and betting on soccer, bicycle racing, horse racing, motorcycle racing, and powerboat racing, though Yakuza gangsters are known to operate illegal casinos.

A poll this month found that 45% of Osaka residents were in favor of building the resort, with 38% against and the remainder unsure. Officials say that to ease concerns about gambling addiction, there will be a cap on the number of Japanese gamblers, and family members can ask for a relative to be banned. Japanese gamblers will also be charged a fee of around $45 per 24 hours in the casino, some of which will go toward efforts to deal with gambling addiction, officials say. (More Japan stories.)

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