Several Japanese cities thought to be in the running to apply to the national government for the right to host a casino resort, had good showings for pro-casino candidates in local elections held nationally on Sunday.
According to information collated by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, Tomakomai City, in Hokkaido prefecture, saw positive outcomes for pro-casino candidates in the city council election; while Sasebo, a city in Nagasaki prefecture, had a good pro-casino showing in the mayoral election.
In Tomakomai, what is termed locally as the “IR promotion group” did well. According to our correspondent, that lobby is not drawn purely along party lines, but includes independent members of the council that work in partnership with pro-casino politicians of various parties.
In Sasebo, Nori Tomonaga, an independent who had been the incumbent mayor, got 78.2 percent of the vote among those that turned out. Mr Tomonaga, an independent, has nonetheless been supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, the grouping governing at national level in Japan.
On April 8 a deal was announced between the operator of the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park in Sasebo and the governments of Sasebo and Nagasaki prefecture, whereby land at the facility would be earmarked for a casino resort.
In March a business body in Sasebo struck a deal with an external marketing company as part of the community’s effort to attract commercial partners for a casino resort development there.
In late January it was reported that an advisory panel to Hokkaido prefecture’s government had again identified Tomakomai City, an industrial port on the south coast of the most northerly of Japan’s main islands, as the preferred site for a casino resort.
Japan’s Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Act, passed in July, stipulated that prefectures and what are termed ordinance-designated cities would have the right to apply to the national government for permission to host a casino resort.
A survey of local authorities in January this year from the Kyodo news agency indicated that – as of that date – only three local governments were clearly committed to applying for the right to host a casino.
A maximum of three casino resorts is to be allowed in a first phase of market liberalisation, although it is thought unlikely any will open before 2025 at the earliest, according to a number of commentators, including an advisor to Japan’s national government.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés