According to the latest reports, Japan is close to getting its first casino. Casinos Austria, a gaming company based in Vienna, has made “a significant breakthrough” in its efforts to bring casino gaming to the Far East country.
The casino is supposed to open in Nagasaki prefecture, in the far southwestern part of Japan. The prefectural authorities have awarded the Austrian company the rights to develop the integrated casino resort in this area. This future establishment will include a casino at the Huis Ten Bosch park, hotels, shops, restaurants, and a convention center. Casinos Austria beat five other bidders for the project. If everything goes as planned, they should sign the contract with the local government before the end of August.
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It’s designed to fully replicate the Dutch town, displaying full-size replicas of old Dutch Buildings. The prefecture hopes that the new resort will attract even more visitors, up to an additional 9.3 million, both domestic and from abroad. Nagasaki government officials have already committed to invest 460 billion yen ($4.2 billion) in the project. The new casino will bring some European flavor to the Asian gaming industry, traditionally dominated by Macau and Singapore companies.
Everyone involved in the proposal is confident that administrative steps needed to get the project off the ground are a mere formality. We should expect the Casinos Austria to soon break ground on the new casino. Luckily, the whole endeavor enjoys great support from the local authorities. Besides Nagasaki prefecture who already invested heavily, the national government is also fully behind the project. The incoming tax revenue will greatly help the prefecture budget, but there are other benefits. This is a predominately rural area with an aging population.
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Several other local governments in Japan are already working on similar proposals to one developed in Nagasaki. Most notably, the city of Osaka, Wakayama prefecture, and the city of Yokohama. The Yokohama project is the most ambitious, but the mood of the locals is very different. Mayor election in Yokohama is set for August 22, and this appears to be the key issue for the voters. Reportedly, more than 70% of Yokohama residents oppose the casino plan. Unlike underdeveloped areas, such as Nagasaki or Wakayama, people here believe that the city doesn’t need the casino money to support itself. There are also concerns about gambling addiction issues.
Currently, six out of eight mayoral candidates in Yokohama are against the casino proposal. However, the incumbent mayor, Fumiko Hayashi, is a strong supporter. The development in Nagasaki is unlikely to be influenced by the Yokohama elections. Still, the election of anti-casino mayor in Yokohama may create an opportunity for another city to acquire one of the limited numbers of casino licenses. One thing is certain, there will be casinos in Japan. The only question is which one will be the first.