Universal Studios Japan is potential bidder for one of country’s first casino licences

By Emma Rumney
Osaka-based theme park operator Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is considering bidding for one of the country’s proposed casino licences according to Kyodo news agency, citing unnamed sources.

Japan's lawmakers are in ongoing discussions regarding the legalisation and regulation of casino gambling in the world’s third largest economy, which could harbour a gambling market with the potential to rival Macau.

Sources close to the story said on Saturday that once gambling regulations are liberalised USJ will consider competing for a licence to operate a casino complex in the western Japanese city where it is based.

Kyodo also mentions a blueprint set by Osaka authorities detailing an entertainment complex with a casino and theme park based on an artificial island called Yumeshima around 3km away from USJ.

Osaka is among six prefectural authorities seeking to host a casino complex under the proposed licences and regulation. The remaining five are Hokkaido, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Miyazaki and Okinawa.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party along with two opposition parties together submitted a bill to parliament last December that would legalise casinos, with hopes of stimulating tourism and investment in Japan.

Lawmakers opposed to the bill, such as the Japan Communist Party’s Mikishi Daimon, have attempted to postpone its discussion because its large support base makes passage very likely once debate begins.

After much delay Japan’s lower house began discussing the bill last month, just before the summer recess. Talks will resume in the next parliamentary session in autumn when it is widely expected that the bill will be passed.
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