On March 30th, the Japan Casino School held a graduation ceremony for its most recent class. The institute was established 15 years ago and has more than 760 graduates. But this year's ceremony was special. It was the first graduating class since the Diet had passed the new casino legislation.
The law allows for the building of integrated resorts that include casinos at up to three areas in Japan. The first one is still several years from opening. In the meantime, local governments are looking for partner casino operators to prepare development plans to submit to the central government.
Stiff competition has started between cities for the right to host these resorts, as the casino industry is expected to draw foreign tourists, stimulating regional economies and creating jobs.
The casinos don't just offer hopes of big jackpots. They have some young people dreaming of new careers.
30-year-old Kenjiro Koike used to work as a rickshaw driver in Kamakura, one of Japan's most famous tourist destinations.
A year and a half ago, Koike picked up a customer who happened to be a card dealer in Las Vegas. This encounter convinced him to become one himself. He says he's always enjoyed going to casinos overseas. Now Koike has a working holiday visa and is trying to get a job in Canada to get experience before they open in Japan.
"If world class casinos are built in Japan, they'll need good dealers," Koike says. "I want to improve my skills before then."
24-year-old Mana Kijima is a nurse but hopes to become a dealer. She says her interest in the profession was sparked in high school when she saw a TV program about it. She is now studying English so she can work overseas. But she says she hopes to return home to be on the staff when casinos finally open in Japan.
20-year-old Seishiro Fuji used to be in the Japan Self-Defense Force but quit after the law passed.
"You see casinos in the movies and the dealers look so cool," he says. "I'd been looking for a chance but I couldn't find one. But when the bill was passed, I thought this is my chance. So I quit my job."
He says his decision surprised his friends and families, with some even calling him crazy. But he told them he wanted to pursue his dream. He plans to go to Canada next year to find work.
The Japan Casino School focuses its curriculum on training students to provide excellent hospitality.
"I think we need both great facilities and great human resources to build world class casinos in this country," says Masayoshi Oiwane, principal of the school. "Having highly trained employees is essential. I hope our graduates will eventually train the next generation."
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On March 26th, Prime Minister Abe declared that Japan is focused on making casino resorts of "unprecedented scale and quality." It remains to be seen what Japan's first casinos will look like, but a number of young people are already betting on their success.