(Refiles to remove extra word from headline)
TOKYO Aug 28 An advisor to Japanese lawmakers
seeking to legalise casinos said on Thursday he wants local
gamblers to be allowed in amid media reports that the health
ministry is pushing to ban Japanese nationals due to fears about
Toru Mihara, a professor at the Osaka University of Commerce
who helped lawmakers draft the casino bill, told reporters the
government should tackle the issue of problem gambling through
counselling and other means, and not by imposing a ban.
Mihara's comments suggest the debate over the casino bill,
which is currently in parliament, may be protracted with
supporters unwilling to accept any measures that would reduce
the number of potential gamblers.
Asked whether he thought casino gambling should be limited
to foreigners, Mihara said: "It would be entirely out of the
"I would estimate that about 80 percent of all visitors will
be Japanese. The remainder will be foreigners," he said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has identified casino resorts as a
key feature of his economic growth plan. Lawmakers are currently
discussing an initial bill to allow this form of gambling, and
the debate could spill over into an extraordinary session of
parliament expected to start in September.
If the initial bill passes, debate will move to a second
bill on more detailed regulations, which proponents hope to pass
next year. Any delays in the process could dampen the hopes of
global casino firms keen to unlock a gaming market in time for
the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Companies including Las Vegas Sands Corp and Melco
Crown Entertainment Ltd are vying to win the first
licences to operate casinos in Japan, a market that brokerage
CLSA estimates could generate annual revenue of $40 billion.
(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Miral Fahmy)