As the Japanese Diet is approaching its self-imposed deadline for crafting a bill that would regulate the country’s nascent casino industry, competition for the preferred locations of the future integrated resorts is becoming more and more intense.
The man-built island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay has long been considered one of the most popular potential locations. The city of Osaka is also among the bidders for hosting World Expo 2025 and if it wins the bid, it will be namely Yumeshima that will welcome the major event. According to proponents of the idea for an integrated resort on the artificial island, a property of this kind would only boost interest in Osaka as the potential future host of the trade show.
And while Yumeshima may be the location that has gained the greatest media attention, Japanese news outlet The Japan Times reported earlier today that the Osaka Prefecture and the neighboring Wakayama Prefecture have other suitable locations in mind.
Located at the center of Osaka Bay, the Yumeshima Island is a 390-hectare area of reclaimed land, 140 hectares of which fully developed. The artificial island is around 40 minutes by car from the Kansai International Airport, and 15 minutes by car from downtown Osaka.
Osaka officials and casino lobbyists have pointed out that Yumeshima’s proximity to the airport, which annually sees more than 6 million travelers, and the fact that the island could potentially host World Expo 2025 make it a perfect location for a casino resort. The idea has attracted the attention of international casino developers and operators, including US gambling giants Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International as well as Melco Resorts & Entertainment, which has recently told local media that it preferred Osaka over Tokyo for future casino development.
However, recent media reports have pointed out that if Yumeshima is selected as one of the preferred locations for Japan’s first casino resorts, construction work on the actual resort could not commence before the necessary infrastructure to the island is built. What is more, it is believed that infrastructure construction could burden Osaka residents with higher taxes.
New and Not-So-New Casino Location Proposals
As reported by The Japan Times, Rinku Town in Izumisano has also emerged as a bidder for hosting a casino resort. In fact, the town’s interest in being home to a property of this kind spans back to 2002, when Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City officials as well as local businesses first introduced the idea of Rinku being a possible casino destination. In 2013, Izumisano City approved a resolution that supported the idea, which also was met with overall support from Rinku residents.
The town is located several minutes away by train from the Kansai International Airport and, according to lobbyists, is ideally positioned to attract tourists traveling to and from Japan to a potential casino resort. They have also pointed out that Rinku already has the necessary infrastructure, which means that construction on the actual casino and other resort facilities could begin immediately.
The same goes for the Wakayama Marina City in Wakayama Prefecture, which has surfaced as another interested participant in the heating casino host competition. The city is located about 45 minutes by car from the Kansai International Airport and a little more than an hour away from the Osaka City Center.
With a number of other cities around Japan, Tokyo included, being interested to host the country’s first integrated resorts, it is up to the Diet to decide where exactly these will be built. Japanese lawmakers are expected to introduce a bill that would set the regulations, locations, and operators of the casino complexes sometime in September and to pass it by the end of the year.