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Japanese citizens, like Singaporeans, may have to pay to get in while foreigners can enter for free when casinos open their doors for business in Japan, according to reports in a leading business daily.
The country is likely to build three casino-centred integrated resorts (IR) modelled after the two IRs in Singapore, in time for the 2020 Olympics that Tokyo is to host, the influential Nikkei daily reported yesterday.
Each IR will feature hotels, shopping malls, theatres and other entertainment facilities, all built around a casino.
To enter their casinos, Japanese patrons are expected to pay less than the S$100 fee Singapore citizens and permanent residents have to pay to enter Singapore’s casinos.
Over 20 municipalities in Japan are clamouring to host the IRs as they are seen as trump cards for boosting local tourism and tax revenues.
A Bill to establish the IRs is likely to be passed during the autumn session of Parliament.
On July 18, the government announced that it was setting up a planning team to draw up rules and follow-up legislation that will be needed once the Bill is approved.
“We need to identify issues related to the casino project by looking into cases and legal systems in other countries,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has included IRs as part of his growth strategy to energise the Japanese economy and attract more tourists to Japan.
His government has set a target of 20 million annual foreign arrivals by 2020, twice the number last year.
Mr Abe inspected Singapore’s two IRs in May when he visited the Republic to speak at a security conference.
The premier has even asked detractors, including his coalition partner Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of the New Komeito party, to visit Singapore to see for themselves the Republic’s success in managing its casinos and minimising the social fallout.
Although the government has yet to decide where the IRs will be located, the Nikkei said Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, and Okinawa, a popular resort destination, are in the lead.
Yokohama, south of Tokyo, is also cited as a potential location as it is a port of call for many foreign luxury cruise liners.
Tokyo appears to have ruled itself out because Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, unlike his two immediate predecessors, is reportedly not eager to have an IR in the capital.
Just as in Singapore, there are strong concerns in Japan about the adverse social effects of casinos, especially gambling addiction.
A survey released in 2009 by Japan’s Health and Labour Ministry showed that 5.6 per cent of the country’s adult population — the highest share among gambling nations — are habitual gamblers.
Although gambling is illegal in Japan, exceptions are made for betting on horse racing, and government-sponsored cycling and boat races.
It is not known if Japan will adopt other Singapore-style restrictions for its casinos.
Singapore has a scheme that allows people to ban themselves from the casinos to guard against addiction.
Two years ago, the Singapore government also banned from the casinos those who are financially vulnerable, including those who earn a low income; people who are unemployed and receive short- to medium-term government financial aid; and those who have rental arrears of six months or more.