Japan’s IR scene continues to show a lot of movement

Streets at night in Japan

It’s looking more likely, despite a recent setback due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, that Japan is going to be able to make progress this year with its plans to introduce integrated resorts (IR) to the country. There has already been movement since the new year started, with Nagasaki already launching its request-for-proposal (RFP) process and Yokohama set to get its RFP initiative going in the coming days. As Japan’s gambling market begins to take shape, activity is beginning to pick up and different elements are becoming clearer.

Wakayama is one of the areas that wants to host an IR and, last Wednesday, two casino operators confirmed their interest. The prefecture’s IR Promotion Office announced that Clare Best Neem Ventures and SunCity Group Holdings Japan Co. have submitted the required documents to support their spots as potential candidates. Both had already been selected in a previous round of review and, even as there is still no guarantee Wakayama will be among the first three locations selected to host an IR, the companies are ready to go the distance. The prefecture is expected to make a decision sometime during the spring, with the hopes of being chosen so it can introduce a casino within five years.

Oshidori International Development LLC, which wants to win the rights to be included in Nagasaki’s IR scheme, now has someone to help lead the way. It has brought in Keigo Nakatani to be its chief operating officer, turning to an economics major and business development executive that the company believes will give it a leg up on the competition. Says Oshidori Chairman, President and CEO Alejandro Yemenizian, “Oshidori’s rule is not only to create the best IR resort in Asia, but also to fulfill its social responsibilities to Nagasaki and Kyushu through its IR business, and to create a new society together with local people using IR as a catalyst. In order to achieve this, we believed that a person who can carefully discover the potential of the region and present it to the world is the right person to take office.”

Yokohama has had continued difficulty convincing some residents of the merits of an IR. There is tangible polarity over the idea and some residents have gone so far as to try to oust the mayor, Fumiko Hayashi. While that attempt looks to have fallen flat, there is hope that putting a different leader in place will have the desired effect. The city of Nagasaki will need to elect a new mayor later this year and City Councilman – and IR opponent – Masataka Ota is ready to campaign to be the city’s next leader. He will run unaffiliated and said in a recent statement, “I have been saying that [IR] facilities, including casinos that Yokohama City is attracting, are not good. The city council also rejected an ordinance to conduct a public vote on whether or not to vote, and he decided to run for office because he wanted to become mayor and play politics for citizens. If I become mayor, the casino will be over immediately.”