Measures Against Addiction Sought as Panel OK’s Resort With Casino

Courtesy of MGM Resorts International of the United States
A conceptual image of the integrated resort planned to be developed in Yumeshima, Osaka

OSAKA — The Osaka municipal and prefectural governments are counting on a planned integrated resort (IR), with Japan’s first casino at its core, to spur economic growth.

However, the plan just narrowly passed the government’s screening. Various conditions were set, including devising measures to combat gambling addiction and coming up with ways to deal with possible land subsidence on the artificial island of Yumeshima where the resort is to be built.

‘Unclear grounds’ for visitors estimate

The government’s seven-member panel of experts in tourism and economics released a report Friday on its screening of the IR development plan submitted by Osaka Prefecture. The plan scored 657.9 points out of a total of 1,000 points covering 25 items, slightly above the passing line of 600.

The plan drew a favorable reaction regarding such factors as the total area of approximately 770,000 square meters which is larger than that of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. The Singapore integrated resort covered approximately 600,000 square meters at the time of its opening.

The Osaka plan was also praised for its projected economic benefits, with the initial investment amounting to ¥1.8 trillion.

However, the plan secured less than 60% of the possible points on such items as measures to combat gambling addiction.

The Osaka prefectural government said it will develop what is tentatively called the “Osaka addiction center” by the time the resort makes its debut. The center will work to prevent addiction, provide advice and treat addicts in an integrated manner.

While commending these efforts, the panel said: “The plan contains few descriptions of the measures to be taken for the early detection of addiction and intervention in such cases. Such measures must be given shape in the future.”

Regarding the estimate of approximately 20 million annual visitors to the resort, the panel said the figure may have been overestimated, as “some of the details and grounds for the estimates are unclear” and “the figure is more ambitious than the facts would suggest.”

The online casino market has grown rapidly worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some predict that the market, which was worth $72.3 billion (about ¥9.5 trillion) as of 2021, will nearly double six years from then. It is uncertain whether the resort in Osaka, where a brick-and-mortar casino is expected to account for 80% of total sales, will be as profitable as expected.

Based on the report presented by the panel, the government has set seven conditions for its approval, including: 1) taking effective measures against addiction; 2) detailed estimates of the effects of developing the IR; and 3) consideration of measures to be taken if the ground on Yumeshima sinks further than anticipated.

The prefectural and municipal governments of Osaka will consider how to meet the seven conditions and draft an agreement with the business entities involved that includes a plan for executing the project and a detailed work schedule.

They will then apply to the central government for approval.

Upon the application by the business operators involved, the Japan Casino Regulatory Commission, an external organ of the Cabinet Office, will examine whether there are any ties to so-called antisocial forces, and decide whether to grant a license to operate a casino.

Osaka Mayor Hideyuki Yokoyama welcomed the panel’s approval, telling reporters at city hall on Friday, “This has been long awaited, and will be a turning point for Osaka.”

“We want to discuss the issues that were cited with the business operators involved,” Yokoyama said.