Japan paves way for $13.5bn Osaka casino complex

The resort complex will be built on the artificial island of Yumeshima (Yellow Dog Taro/CC BY-SA 4.0)
The government of Japan has chosen the city of Osaka as the site of its first casino, clearing the way for a $13.5bn resort complex, South China Morning Post reports.

The massive project will be built on Yumeshima, a reclaimed island in Osaka Bay that is also due to hold the World Expo in 2025.

As well as the casino, the development will include a conference centre, a shopping mall and a museum, as well as a ferry terminal and helicopter pad. Completion is expected in 2029.

The scheme will be developed by US casino operator MGM Resorts International and local partner Orix Corp, each of whom have a 40% stake in the company set up to manage the complex. Twenty other companies hold the remaining 20%.

Around $4.1bn of finance will be advanced by MUFG Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

The announcement, made last Friday, came after a long debate in Japan over the wisdom of legalising gambling.

The Diet voted to allow casinos in principle in 2016, and in 2018 it agreed to allow the construction of three “integrated resorts” (see further reading).

In the event, only Osaka and Nagasaki put forward proposals. No decision has yet been reached on the Nagasaki plan, which is led by Casinos Austria International.

The decision was controversial, not least because Japan already has a problem with pachinko, a gambling game based on ball bearings. One in 10 Japanese people play it, and addiction is seen as a serious social issue.

To allay those concerns, the bill restricted entry to casinos to three times a week, and allowed casinos to lend only after it had investigated a player’s solvency. It will also charge Japanese patrons an $18 entry fee.

Reuters notes that Japan is seen as a prime market for casino operators because of its affluent population of 126 million. This has led to a projected annual income for the complex of $3.9bn, based on the estimate of 6 million international tourists and 14 million domestic visitors.

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