The world of Integrated Resorts (IR) is taking Japan by storm, proving to be the grand prize for operators far and wide. Here we have condensed the latest updates to get you up to speed
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has pushed the brakes on IR progression, causing time lines to be revisited. Nonetheless, IR projects have already bounced back this year in bid to introduce the country to IRs. Stay up to date with our inclusive review in reference to locations: Tokyo, Hokkaido (Tomakomai city), Chiba, Aichi, Yokohama, Osaka, Wakayama, and Nagasaki (Sasebo city).
Long short: the history of IRs in Japan
Over the past few decades, Japan has jumped on the casino bandwagon - being one of the few remaining major economies sans casino gaming. Japan had considered measures to approve IRs as a way to boost tourism and generate new revenue. Ambition to break into the industry was heightened following the introduction of the Integrated Resort Promotion Act in 2016, followed by the Integrated Resorts Implementation Act in 2018. Understandably, this garnered mass attention from investors worldwide.
However, 2020 brought a sudden change of pace as the pandemic halted planning and integral meetings between key stakeholders and IR company representatives. Furthermore, the damming ‘500.com scandal’, involving Japanese politician of the Liberal Democratic Party Tsukasa Akimoto accepting bribes from Chines company 500.com, left a bad taste in the mouths of the global IR industry. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resignation in August was a bump in the road as he was leading the push to bring IRs to Japan.
Towards the end of last year, Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike danced around the idea of entering the Japan casino race, telling GGRAsia “[Tokyo will] keep considering whether to apply”.
There are also rumours that Las Vegas Sands could be a major contender despite withdrawing from the Japan IR race back in May. Undeniably, a Tokyo bid would stimulate industry buzz given the significance of the capital and large population.
The road to establishing the Osaka IR has turned sour as not only did numerous operators have dropped out, but Osaka has dropped plans to open its IR completely due to COVID-19.
Just last week, SiGMA News reported that official documents for Osaka reveal that the launch date for Osaka Integrated Resort (IR) on Yumeshima Island was removed. The news followed recurring delays to the launch of the IR brought by the impacts of COVID-19. Initially, the IR was set to open before the 2025 World Expo, yet COVID-19 impacts had pushed this back to 2028.
Yokohama is the second-largest city in Japan by population. Yokohama recently announced a total of JPY83million will go towards the Yokohama IR development plan and request-for-proposal (RFP) process which was launched on 21 January. The Metropolis confirmed that five private-sectors firms have engaged in the request-for-proposal stage, namely: Macau operator Galaxy Entertainment Grup Ltd, Genting Singapore Ltd, Melco Resorts Entertainment Ltd, Japanese group Shotoku Corp, and Sega Sammy Holdings Inc.
However, Yokohama’s mayor, Fumiko Hayashi, is facing a predicament as IRs have garnered a negative public reaction, and fears of a potential election loss (in the eyes of operators) could lead to the city dropping its IR bid.
The prefecture has received two applications for the RFP stage, namely Hong Kong’s Suncity Group and Canadian IR investment firm Clairvest Group. Wakayama is set to make a final decision during the spring and will ideally introduce the IR in the next five years.
As a result of the pandemic, the Wakayama prefecture’s RFP submission deadline for the private-sector, was extended from October 19, 2020 to January 15, 2021. Japan's Wakayama prefecture is envisioning a Las Vegas style casino resort on a privately owned 58.3 acre land in the Marina City.
Nagasaki is one of the cities at the forefront of the IR race in Japan. At the start of 2021, Nagasaki officially launched its Request-For-Proposal (RFP) in bid to attract impressive operators that could woo government officials and residents. However, the race for the Nagasaki IR license heats up as Oshidori International Development Godogaisha and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE) have partnered up in bid to acquire the heavily contested IR licence.
The final verdict on the proposal from Sasebo City council and Nagasaki prefectural authorities will be reached in spring 2022, followed by a licencing request. Thereafter, the prefecture aims to start construction as soon as 2023.
The Chiba Prefecture has remained relatively quiet in the Japan IR race. In early January 2020, the Chiba Mayor Toshito Kumaga announced the prefecture was no longer interested in hosting an IR.
According to Inside Asian Gaming, Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura had his eyes set a on a site at Chubu Centrair International Airport. In addition, Aichi had employed an RFC process and budget for future projects, and were already in discussions with operators back in October 2020.
Despite their initial withdrawal, Hokkaido revived their plans for an IR towards the end of 2020 after identifying land for the property. The certification application period has been pushed back to between October 2021 and April 2022 as a result of COVID-19. Originally, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE), Hard Rock International, and Rush Street Japan were competing for a Hokkaido gaming license. Regardless, Hard Rock International will continue fighting for introducing a gaming venue to the city.
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