The coronavirus won’t affect the timetable for Japan’s integrated resort (IR) process. Several analysts expect cities will push ahead with their application processes.
Brendan Bussmann, a partner at casino industry consultancy Global Market Advisors LLC and its director of government affairs, explained that while the coronavirus had limited the ability to host some of the public forums, the suitor-cities were simply not “letting their timeline slip as they seek to find the right operators to develop an IR in their region.”
The government has been trying to do everything possible to stick to the timeline. Even amid an alleged bribery scandal, there was still a push to stick to the timetable that would give local governments between January of this year to July of next year to apply for the right to host one of these resort-casinos.
However, the recent coronavirus crisis seemed to have softened that deadline. With over 1500 cases reported in the country, many were fearing that this virus could have nearly as dramatic an impact as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that cost more than 18,000 lives.
Adding to the trouble is that some local residents are calling for a postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The hospitality sector envisions a significant impact from the virus, and many were not in the mood for opening additional hospitality facilities amid the crisis.
“The largest immediate challenges are at the local level in cities like Yokohama as they desire public input into their process,” said Bussmann. “There are still over 16 months before applications need to be in to the central government,” he noted to GGRAsia.
“The senior leadership had already insisted in the Diet debates that Covid-19 and IR are mutually exclusive,“ said Daniel Cheng. “In fact, the coronavirus actually provided some relief from the persistent media lens on the IR bribery scandal.”
It was believed as recently as a week ago that the coronavirus would push back the IR schedule. The application process had already been facing a number of challenges as only one city has provided a request for proposal (RFP), and there are rumblings within the national government that the process should be canceled altogether. This had many believing that the 2026 deadline to open the first of these casinos is impossible at this point.
Cheng added: “Only if the virus crisis gets more serious in Japan would it pose a threat to the IR plans.”If that were to happen, the government would have no choice but to give “their full attention and resources to stop the pandemic”.