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Japan eyes casino jackpot

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Hit by years of economic malaise that have trimmed jobs and budgets, a number of Japanese local governments are touting casinos as a cure.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) reported on Saturday that at least eight localities are studying the idea of building casinos to bring in much-needed jobs and money.

 

Tokyo, whose nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara reportedly strongly backs the idea of casinos, is set to pull together a report on the issue, with estimates of the economic benefits, as early as October, the Nikkei said.

 

Ishihara has also reportedly called on other governors to work together in lobbying the central government in favour of the plan.

 

For gambling in Japan is tightly controlled and strictly limited to a handful of events such as horse races. Places such as casinos, where money would be the prize, are prohibited.

 

Although pachinko gaming parlours are ubiquitous and nearly always full, they cannot provide cash prizes directly. Instead, winners get presents or chips they can exchange for cash.

 

Several local governments have already put out reports that are likely to set eyes gleaming in many a struggling community.

 

Estimates by a small city in central Aichi prefecture, some 269 km (168 miles) west of Tokyo, show that, based on overseas examples, the construction of three large UFABet casinos with 150 card and roulette tables, and some 2000 slot machines, could pull in more than 30 billion yen a year.

 

Officials in Kagawa prefecture, on the smallest main island of Shikoku, say that building ten hotels with casinos would create some 70,000 jobs and bring in 150 billion yen annually, the Nikkei said.

 

But don’t look for a Japanese version of Monaco anytime soon.

 

The setting up of casinos would require complicated revisions of Japanese laws in a land where change comes with glacial speed.

 

Fears that casinos could bring more crime will make such changes especially controversial.

 

So for places like remote rural Akita prefecture, some 450 km (281 miles) north of Tokyo, its stated ambitions to become an “Eastern Vegas” are likely to remain no more than a dream for many, many years to come.

 

Air Macau Plans To Expand Services, Add Beijing Flights

 

BEIJING — (Press Release) — Air Macau, which is 51% owned by Hong Kong-listed China National Aviation Corp. (Q.CAN), plans to expand its service network, including additional flights to Beijing, state media reported Wednesday.

Air Macau Chief Executive Officer Zhang Hongying said the carrier will exert more effort to expand its mainland presence and diversify business into neighboring countries and regions, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

 

Based in the former Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong, Air Macau has a fleet of 11 aircraft and specializes in cross-strait services to Taiwan.

 

Direct flights between Taiwan and mainland China aren’t permitted, allowing airlines in Hong Kong and Macau to offer their services as a transit port for cross-strait travelers.

 

Established in 1995, Air Macau first turned a profit in 1999, building to a net profit of $9.5 million in 2001, the report said.

 

“We are confident that in 2002 Air Macau will be in the black for the fourth straight year despite fierce market competition, due to the sound development of Macau and our market expansion efforts,” Zhang said.

 

Once better known for its casinos and gangster turf wars, Macau has been attempting to clean up its image as a tourist destination since China assumed sovereignty of the enclave from Portugal in 1999.

 

Zhang said the aviation industry will be the first direct beneficiary when Macau becomes established as a resort city, a more popular gambling center and a hub for conferences and exhibitions in line with an ambitious government plan.

 

“When this comes to fruition, Air Macau will surely capitalize on the emerging opportunities,” he said.