Not everything in the world has to come to a stop because of the coronavirus. Plenty of attention is being given to the pandemic where it is needed most, but life is still going to continue, and things will return to normal. If anything, the COVID-19 fiasco should force companies and governments to work more diligently at building up their financial situations sooner, not later, so the rebuilding process can begin as soon as possible. Japan has suffered from the virus just like everyone else, but the country’s government is ready to ensure that the launch of integrated resorts (IR) isn’t delayed any more than absolutely necessary. Those prefectures or cities hoping to win one of the first three IR licenses will need to be ready to submit their bids during the first six months of next year, the coronavirus be damned.
From January 4 through July 30, Japan’s federal government expects contenders to be ready with their applications and proposals, according to Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kazuyoshi Akaba. He asserted that the bidding period is not going to be delayed and that local governments must be prepared to move forward with the national agenda. The government’s position makes sense – prefectures and cities must be able to multitask if they want to be responsible for a multibillion-dollar project designed to change the face of Japanese tourism.
Nagasaki, one of the contending prefectures, isn’t overly concerned with having to juggle its priorities between combatting the coronavirus and preparing for an IR bid submission. It has already stated that it is fully prepared to move forward and is ready to launch its request for proposal (RFP) plan to start pooling responses from local businesses interested in joining forces. That process is expected to begin sometime this spring.
Osaka, on the other hand, not so much. The prefecture’s government has previously indicated that it would prefer to slow down its IR efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is convinced that a delay is in order. The governor of Osaka, Hirofumi Yoshimura, has closed all recreational and sports facilities until early May and believes this will impact discussions with possible business partners, despite the fact that any discussion to be held in person can just as easily be held over the phone or through video conferencing. Osaka already has a standing agreement to bring in MGM as its casino partner.
Yoshimura isn’t convinced, though, and explains, “We initially intended to collect operator proposals by the end of April. However, upon discussion with [MGM Resorts International], we have postponed this deadline to the end of July. MGM is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, and because the city itself is on lockdown, the IR work has been suspended. Although we are doing what we can at the prefectural office, we have postponed the recruitment procedure. So, in that way, there is a clear impact [on IR].”
MGM is just one of several casino operators that are still expected to fight for gambling action in Japan. Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock International are included in that group, as well, as are Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment and Genting Group.