Japan Moves Closer To Legalizing Gambling

American casino businesses can't wait to get in on the action. If legalized, Japanese gambling resorts could be open by 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

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Japan's government is moving closer to legalizing gambling. NPR's Sam Sanders reports American casino tycoons are already lining up to invest.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: One sound you won't hear in Japan, right now, is this.

(SOUNDBITE OF COINS FALLING)

SANDERS: Expect for horse racing, some motor sports and a pinball-like game called Pachinko, gambling is banned in Japan. But Japanese lawmakers are expected to move forward with legislation this year that would legalize gambling.

American gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson has already talked about opening a casino in Japan. Richard Drobnick studies international business at the University of Southern California, and he says Adelson's comments are a good sign.

RICHARD DROBNICK: My guess would be that he has some very strong Japanese partners that he's working with. They're saying that chances are good.

SANDERS: Adelson says he wants his casino in Tokyo. Another American billionaire, real estate mogul Neil Bluhm, says he'd like a gambling resort in Osaka. That Japanese city has already set aside 170 acres for a casino.

Richard Drobnick says Japan's economy could use the boost; it's been experiencing slow growth. But Drobnick says gambling might not be a game changer.

DROBNICK: It's not going to replace Toyota and it's not going to replace Hitachi. But it would probably be a boost to the construction industry and a boost to the service industries.

SANDERS: If legalized, Japanese gambling resorts could be open by 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sam Sanders, NPR News.

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