UPDATE 1-Japan extends deadline for casino host-city bids to April 2022

(Updates with Tourism Agency announcement)

TOKYO, Oct 9 (Reuters) - 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 authorised licences 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. (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Christopher Cushing; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)