Casinos. You see those pool tables, people betting high stakes. Be it poker, slots, blackjack, craps or roulette — a gambler’s heaven. We all know the saying, ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’.  But it may not be valid anymore.

Casinos have found a successful entry into the Japanese market. Referred enthusiastically to as ‘integrated resorts’, casinos have wormed their way in as a possible candidate for tourism. Integrated resorts offer hotels, entertainment, shopping centres and conference facilities along with their casinos. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pursued the passing of laws that would liberalise gambling in a culture that otherwise considers it taboo.

Casino in Hokkaido

In 2025, you might see a casino in Hokkaido, Nagasaki, Yokohama, Tokyo or Osaka, the leading candidate for a casino license. Local jurisdictions will nominate a single consortium in this process and the national government will consider it for an IR license.  Major investors to this project include but are not limited to Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts International and Hard Rock International. Japanese investors such as Sega Sammy Holdings and slot machine maker Konami Holdings also exist within the scene. Granted these casinos are planned to allow free entry only to international visitors, Japanese citizens can also get in with a fee of about 6,000 yen ($56). This supposed deterrent is not a strong one when you believe you’ll be making more once you get in.

The Prime Minister of Japan sees this as a way to enrich the economy, ironical it is tied to gambling, a sure shot way to lose money. It also raises a fundamental ethical issue: Can a government whose duty is to protect the citizens take revenue from gambling? The government would be taking 30% of the profit from casinos through taxes. Of course, these integrated resorts were not without opposition. There was a no-confidence motion held as fears of increased debt, and gambling addiction would inhibit a healthy Japanese lifestyle.


One critical aspect of the new law enables both foreigners and Japanese nationals to borrow money from the casino by depositing a certain amount of cash. It is a red flag as it promotes debt. Gambling addiction has presented a significant concern as it risks entanglement with organized crime. The country does have many pachinko parlours, but the law does not consider pachinko to be gambling. While it is arguable that it is a form of gambling, it is considered purely recreational.

The bottom line is, for just a little improvement in GDP of less than 1%, this move is exaggerated as an economic strategy and substantially underestimates the social impacts. While there is nothing wrong about having gambling as a recreational activity, one must reconsider whether it is wise to have the government involve itself in it. It seems like a gamble by the Abe government.