Tokyo Governer Takes to Casinos
By Linda
For two days the casino crowds hosted by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara pumped the handles of slot machines and bet feverishly on the roulette wheel.

Although better known for his hawkish advocacy of building a stronger, more assertive Japan, Tokyo's often controversial leader has found a new cause celebre: legalized casino-style gambling, the Associated Press reports.

Japan's capital is badly in need of money. Tokyo has been losing money for four years in a row and suffered an $80.65 million deficit in fiscal 2001. Tax revenue is expected to plunge this year, prolonging Tokyo's fiscal slump.

In a report published in October, the Tokyo government estimated that building casinos could generate $733.87 million in casino revenues, $177.41 million in tax revenue and create 13,800 jobs.

With Japan's economy overall still in a downturn -- unemployment is at record highs, banks are teetering under bad loans and stock prices are at 19-year-lows -- Ishihara isn't alone in courting casinos. More than a dozen mayors and governors from across the country have voiced their support for laws to expand the scope of legal gambling. Japan is no stranger to gambling. The law here prohibits gaming and betting, but public-run gambling enterprises are common. Gamblers can legally bet on the horses, on bicycle, boat and auto races and also play the lottery.

Privately-operated 'pachinko’ pinball is also considered a kind of gambling because a legal loophole allows winning prizes to be exchanged for money. The annual payout amounts to some $241.94 billion, about three times as much as Las Vegas' annual earnings.

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