ambling is one the favourite activities of the Japanese. Although casinos are banned there is huge appetite for Pachinko – a kind of pinball game – as well as horse race, bicycle race and lottery betting. These games generate on average annual revenues of 19 trillion yen, the equivalent of us$ 185 billion. This is roughly 30% of all leisure spending by the Japanese.
Casinos in Japan are set to be modeled on those in Singapore – a mix of gambling and family-style entertainment within a theme resort. Osaka is ready to be among the first cities of the archipelago to welcome a casino. Osaka has already chosen a site – a reclaimed island in the Osaka Bay, next to a new “Knowledge City” with piers, museums, offices, hotels and a mall and in the immediate vicinity of Universal Studios Japan.
According to the Prefecture of Osaka, the city has the advantage to rent land at a lower cost than in Tokyo while being one of the most affluent and populated urban areas of Japan. Osaka metropolitan area has nine million inhabitants while over 2.5 million foreign travelers pass through the city every year.
Some of the world’s biggest casino operators have already been knocking on the door of Osaka Investment Bureau. Caesars Entertainment and Genting Singapore visited Osaka last year while MGM Resorts International are expected in the weeks to come. They all expressed strong interest to develop the future giant casino resort of Osaka, estimated to cost some us$ 4.8 billion.
But the amount of money is worth the investment. Experts estimate that Japan could become one of the leading countries – some say the second largest in the world – for gambling revenues, estimated at between us$ 5 and 10 billion a year. It would also stimulate the economy of a city and a region which in recent years experienced a relative decline in its traditional industries. More important, it would help to achieve the target of welcoming 20 million tourists in 2020 and 30 million in 2030 up from 10.3 million in 2013. The first casinos are expected to be fully operational before Tokyo welcomes the Olympic Games in 2020.