Japan IR Still on the Agenda, Revised IR Policy Adopted

Central authorities in Japan have not given up on the idea of developing integrated casino resorts (IR) in the country, the government indicated this week, stating its intent to have a direct role in the communication process with the candidates.

Central Role in Communication

Despite the bumps along the road, including the resignation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August which was expected to complicate casino developments, the Japanese government continues to push for the successful completion of the IR project. The intent to establish a direct liaison with the companies, via the central government’s IR Promotion headquarters, confirmed casino resort development was still on the agenda.

Recently, the governing coalition ruled by Abe’s successor Yoshihide Suga made a proposal for tax reform containing topics about casino resort taxation, which according to Nomura banking group is a clear indication Japanese officials have not gone back on the idea of having 3 operational casino resorts in the country by the end of the decade.

Planning for taxation related to casino resorts for 2022, the proposal confirmed the new timetable for the national IR basic policy. The 9-month delay in the initial timetable was officially adopted, the Friday announcement revealed, setting the application period for local governments to October 1, 2021 through April 28, 2022, as proposed in the revised draft made by the Japan Tourism Agency in October.

Revised Policy Adopted

The Japan Tourism Agency, part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, explained the need to revise the policy by the substantial drop in the number of inbound visitors to the country since the coronavirus outbreak, paired by the need for extra local governments’ resources allocated at combatting the further virus spread, as well as global travel restrictions.

The revised draft included new measures aimed at protecting public health and safety, requirements for the properties to implement enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols to ensure casinos do not facilitate the spread of infectious virus diseases. Further, the heightened sensitivity in some of the prefectures regarding gambling addiction forced the agency to include provisions for gambling-harm protective measures for operators to quell community fears.

According to the newly adopted timetable, Japan would not be able to meet its initial projection for a functional casino resort by 2025. Taking into account the 9-month delay, as well as the time needed for environmental assessment and construction, it was more likely that the IR project would reach completion in the second half of the decade.

For one reason or another, some high-profile private sector partners already withdrew their interest to develop a casino resort in Japan, including casino giant operator Las Vegas Sands.

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