Photo/Illutration Yokohama city government plans to host an integrated resort, which includes casinos, at the Yamashita Pier in the city. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan has pushed back by nine months a July 2021 deadline for cities to submit bids to host casinos amid delays in preparation and a downturn in operators' business conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japan Tourism Agency said on Friday.

The government sees the so-called integrated resorts, which include casinos, shopping outlets and hotels, as a significant means of bolstering tourism, tax revenue and local economies as the country grapples with the impact of a shrinking population.

It has authorized licenses for three resorts, and set a new April 28, 2022, deadline for bids and development plans from interested cities. Those that have expressed an interest include Yokohama, Tokyo, Osaka--Japan's three largest cities--as well as smaller cities including Nagasaki and Wakayama.

The government's plans for the resorts have been hampered in the past by opposition from a public wary of gambling addiction and a bribery scandal that led to the arrest of a high-profile lawmaker.

In May, Las Vegas Sands Corp. ended its plans for a resort in Japan.