Costs, politics erode chances for a Tokyo casino by 2020
By Ritsuko Ando
TOKYO (Reuters) - Plans to open Japan's first casino in Tokyo before the 2020 Olympics are becoming increasingly unlikely, with developers facing skyrocketing building costs and a city government that no longer considers casino development an economic priority.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called legalizing casino gambling a pillar of his plan to revive economic growth. Casino operators including Las Vegas Sands, Genting Singapore, MGM Resorts and Melco Crown Entertainment have all been positioning themselves as potential investors in what analysts say is one of the world's biggest untapped markets for this sort of gaming.
For months, the casino operators have courted the governments of Tokyo and Osaka, the most likely locations to build large-scale integrated resorts, as Japan's parliament prepared to debate an initial casino bill.
Sands, especially, has focused more on Tokyo than Osaka as a potential location. Asked to comment about any potential delay, George Tanasijevich, the company's global development chief said: "Until we know exactly what this opportunity is going to be, it is difficult to comment specifically on which city is best."
On Monday, parliament began its autumn session, during which the initial casino bill is due to be debated. Proponents hope to pass legislation by November that would allow pro-casino lawmakers to prepare a second, detailed proposal, which they hope will be approved in 2015.
HIGHER COSTS, WEAKENED SUPPORT
Previous Tokyo governors had supported plans for a casino. Current governor Yoichi Masuzoe, who took office in February, however, said in June that pursuing a casino was "not at the top" of his agenda. Continued...