Hard Rock Japan keeps hopes high in IR race


The timeline for launching Japan’s integrated resort (IR) market may be shifting because of the coronavirus, but the plan is still moving forward. While some casino operators, such as Las Vegas Sands, have given up on the idea of expanding into the country, Hard Rock International (HRI) is planting its feet and isn’t going anywhere. Inside Asian Gaming (IAD) caught up with Hard Rock Japan President Ado Machida, who laid out the company’s plans for the future of gambling in Japan.

HRI is convinced that Japan has the ability to offer a robust gambling market that will benefit both the country’s tourism industry and casino operators. Machida asserts that the company remains “optimistic that as soon as we see light at the end of the tunnel with respect to COVID-19, we can resume our activities to garner an IR license in Japan,” adding, “The fact remains that Japan is still a highly desirable place to visit for many foreign tourists, and the proposition of an IR in Japan is still a very attractive one.” 

There is a lot that is going into Japan’s IR scheme – it’s something that is having to be built completely from scratch and which hasn’t been without a few wrinkles. However, the country’s “attractiveness as a highly sought-after destination is still valid and IRs will be especially important after COVID-19 as the country seeks to find new and innovative ways to attract foreign tourism,” states Machida. He further offers that the current global pandemic shouldn’t be a factor in speeding up any timelines, adding that it is better to do things correctly the first time around, even if they take a little longer to develop.

Machida states, “We believe our IR project in Japan will be an enduring and recognizable symbol for the future. We want to ensure it is done right, will meet any future requirements, such as any new potential health-related requirements due to COVID-19, and is done in a way that will last for many, many years to come.”

While still working to overcome the fallout from COVID-19 and attempting to put its IR plan into place, Japan is still convinced that it’s on the right path with the legalization of casino gambling. Different regions within the country continue to support the idea, as well, and are making preparations for the eventual launch of the official bidding process. Yokohama City, long seen as a top contender to host an IR, has been working diligently to assuage any concerns the local population may have regarding gambling, and has published a video on its website to explain the intricacies of its plan. 

The video, “For Yokohama’s Bright Future – Yokohama Innovation IR,” is part of a larger project that includes all of the city’s 18 wards. All are expected to hold briefings related to the IR subject in order to allow local residents to understand the IR concept, with only six still lagging behind due to the coronavirus.