Japan's Abe lauds benefits of casinos during Singapore trip

Japan's Abe lauds benefits of casinos during Singapore trip

TOKYO/SINGAPORE - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said casino resorts could become a pillar of his country's future economic growth as he toured Singapore's two lavish gaming venues on Friday.

Abe, who until now has remained silent on the issue of casinos, gave a strong endorsement to legislation that would legalise casino gambling in Japan. "I think integrated resorts will be a key part of Japan's economic growth strategy," he was quoted by Japanese media as saying.

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, is considering allowing casino gambling to boost tourism and attract investment.

The country is widely seen as a prize market for casino operators due to its affluent population of 128 million and its close proximity to wealthy Asian gamblers in the region.

Abe visited the Marina Bay Sands, a three-tower resort on the Singapore waterfront owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands, surprising tourists sunning themselves by the infinity pool on the rooftop as he appeared in a suit with members of the media in tow.

He then headed to Resorts World on Sentosa island, owned by Genting Singapore.

Abe, who was visiting Singapore to deliver a speech at a regional defence conference, said he hoped Japanese lawmakers would carefully consider the benefits casino resorts could bring.

"I would like them to deliberate with a perspective on what needs to be done to bolster Japan's attractiveness, and how to get people to visit," Japanese media quoted him as saying.

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Japan has been deliberating on opening casinos for more than a decade but the chances now seem higher than previously.

While parliament is unlikely to pass a bill in the current parliament session which ends next month, proponents are aiming to pass one in the extraordinary session in the autumn, political and industry sources said on Friday.

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