any local businesses believe the time is ripe and are quite keen on the plan, which was initiated by Chiba Governor Kensaku Morita to boost the appeal of Narita Airport over Haneda Airport, which is expanding its international services. Morita presented the idea in March, proposing that the casino be open only to foreign tourists. "It's about time we put this issue on the table for discussion," he said.
A project team comprising local governments around the airport and business organizations will present different draft plans for establishing casinos. Headed by Morita, the team is tasked with devising strategies to invigorate Narita Airport.
Morita's suggestion was prompted by a survey of the panel's member organizations. Of the 15 that responded, 11 organizations said the time was right to consider building casinos around the airport. "I think the timing is good, because of the need to compete with Haneda Airport," said Narita Mayor Kazunari Koizumi. "But to tell you the truth, I have no idea what the economic impact would be."
Kosaburo Morinaka, president of the airport's operator, Narita International Airport, was more cautious. "I think [casinos] aren't suited to airports," Morinaka said.
However, Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kuma-gai was positive about the idea, saying, "Certain economic benefits can be expected, including employment."
The Chiba Municipal Assembly also received a proposal from the Junior Chamber International Chiba to invite casinos to the city, and the assembly established a federation of its members to examine the economic impact of such a project.
Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto has visited casinos in South Korea and Singapore with an eye to inviting casinos to his prefecture. Hashimoto plans to build casinos as the main attraction of a comprehensive resort facility and use tax revenues from the business to fund welfare and health care services.
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara attempted to open a casino in the capital in 2002, but he ultimately scrapped the scheme due to problems concerning the Penal Code.
Currently, a group of Diet members is considering submitting a legislator-sponsored bill to an extraordinary Diet session, expected to be convened in autumn, to legalize casinos in this country.
However, Professor Hiroyuki Yasujima of Rikkyo University, an expert on tourism, warned against rushing to conclusions. "Casinos have ended up failing in many cases, so it's a happy-go-lucky way of thinking to simply believe casinos will help invigorate local economies," Yasu-jima said.
"For instance, Japan has no know-how [regarding casinos], and it's necessary to revise the law to [open them]. Local governments will have to work with [the central government and others concerned]," he said.