TOKYO (AFP) - At a casino school in Tokyo, croupier-in-training Takuto Saito settles behind a green table and reaches for the roulette wheel, addressing a group of imaginary punters: "Spin up.
Place your bets." The 24-year-old has never set foot in a casino, but he is gambling that new laws opening up the lucrative sector will soon create plenty of jobs for croupiers in Japan.
Opening his palms to fake surveillance cameras on the roof to show there is nothing up his sleeves, Mr Saito says he enjoys watching how players make their moves and the tense atmosphere around the gambling tables.
Owner Masayoshi Oiwane says interest has skyrocketed in his casino school, where would-be croupiers learn to deal baccarat games, spin the roulette wheel and supervise betting on the green baize tables.
"Our enrolment has doubled from last year," he said.
"We are seeing an unprecedented level of momentum." Japan was long the only developed nation that banned casinos but passed legislation in 2016 paving the way to make the industry legal.
And on Tuesday (June 19), the Lower House of Parliament passed a Bill allowing the construction of three "integrated resort" (IR) facilities combining casinos, convention centres, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Japan is often viewed as the Holy Grail of gaming in Asia due to a wealthy population, proximity to China and appetite for other forms of legal gambling, including horse racing and pachinko, a slot machine-style game.
Economists estimate the casino industry could bring in takings of 2 trillion yen (S$25 billion) to 3.7 trillion yen a year, and national and regional governments are set for a jackpot of a combined 30 per cent tax on gaming revenues.
Japan's government hopes they will become tourist draws, local versions of Las Vegas or Macau that will be a shot in the arm for a stagnant economy and attract business travellers and new tourists.
It has brushed aside opposition from activists, including those concerned about Japan's already well-documented problem with gambling addiction.
Mr Toru Mihara, an expert on the casino sector at Osaka University of Commerce, said just one single integrated resort could create tens of thousands of jobs and have a "great impact on the local economy".