Osaka Election Could Impact Casino Decision

  • Japan made resort casinos legal in 2018, with three licenses available
  • Osaka is the favorite to get one of these licenses
  • An election for the new mayor and governor of Osaka will be held in April
  • The outcomes could represent a big boost for Osaka’s quest for a license
Hand dropping ballot into ballot box
Osaka will elect a new governor and a new mayor in April, which could have implications for its resort casino bid.

Resort casinos in Japan

Casinos only became legal in Japan toward the end of 2016 after more than a decade of debates on the issue. Then, at the very end of the 2018 legislative session, resort casinos got the green light.

There are three licenses available for these casino resorts. Most global casino operators will be eyeing these licenses because they will be extremely lucrative. Japan appears likely to become a major player in the casino space in Asia in the coming years.

Casino resorts will be a massive attraction for tourists, gamblers and non-gamblers alike. Three cities or regions will be given these licenses and will then select their operating partners.

Osaka’s chances

Most experts believe that Osaka is the city most likely to obtain a license for a resort casino. The World Expo is coming to the city in 2025 and will attract many visitors.

Officials in Osaka are already planning its resort casino. It would occupy more than 60 hectares on the man-made island of Yumeshima and would cost around $8.5bn (£6.5bn) to develop.

They would aim to have it open by 2024 and they estimate that it would attract around 25 million visitors each year. Of those, about 19 million would not be gamblers.

The new regulations from the Japanese government require sufficient space to host an event for more than 6,000 people and over 10,000 square meters worth of hotel space.

MGM Resorts International is pushing hard to be chosen as the operator of this casino. The company has opened offices in the city and is in a partnership with ORIX, a financial services company from the area.

The former governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, is heading MGM’s expansion into Japan. He has a lot of experience dealing with casinos and politicians.

Upcoming election

On April 7, the residents of Osaka will go to the polls to elect a new governor and a new mayor. The election results could have a significant impact on the possibility of a resort casino in the city.

Many are watching this election with interest because the most recent governor and mayor are now running for one another’s positions in this upcoming election.

In effect, they would be swapping roles if they both win. Their term limits in the current positions will come to an end by the close of 2019. By going down this route, each will be able to stay in office for another four-year term.

These two candidates belong to the Osaka Restoration Party. The current national ruling party is the Liberal Democratic Party. Both parties agree on many topics (except for the idea of having a metropolitan government in Osaka), but they do not see completely eye to eye on the issues of resort casinos.

Casino resort implications

The current national government pushed for resort casino legalization, but the Restoration Party is even more eager to bring such a casino to Osaka.

It would be a massive coup for the party and would cement its support base in Osaka for years to come. Its opponents do not appear to be as eager to attract this casino.

The World Expo is taking place in 2015 on the island that is the proposed location of a resort casino. To have the casino open in time for this event will require the national government to make haste with the regulatory framework.

It is projected that as many as 30 million people will visit for the expo. However, many believe that the casino project will not be completed in time.

The main need for the expo is hotel rooms, which require the longest time for construction of the entire development. 

While the Expo will be a great short-term contributor to the local economy, the resort casino will be a key driver in the economy for decades to come.