Japan Launches Application Window for IR Submissions

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After a long delay due to COVID-19 and other issues, Japan is finally advancing its plans to introduce integrated resorts (IR) to the country. The Japanese Diet launched the official window for application submissions last Friday and host cities and prefectures have until next April to forward their final project proposals. With only three locations still in the running, and three locations to be approved, there’s not too much of a contest.

Japan Advances IR Plans

As of last Friday, Japan’s Diet launched the submission period for IR projects to be presented to the national government. Those cities and prefectures hoping to secure one of the first three approvals have until April 28 of next year to deliver their final projects, after which the government will spend the following months making its final decision. There are three possible locations that could be chosen and only three local governments are still interested – Osaka, Nagasaki and Wakayama. In theory, all three could be selected; however, there is a possibility that the government only chooses one or two, or even none.

Once all applications are in, they will be judged based on a points scale of up to 1,000 points. The criteria and structure of the evaluation were presented last December, with IR projects rated based on five categories. The contribution of the IR to Japanese tourism is worth 450 points, the ability of the property to conduct transparent and safe business is worth 200, the national economic and social impacts are worth 150, implementation of gambling harm prevention is worth another 150 and the use of casino revenue for the betterment of the local and national communities is worth 50.

Japan Still Has Work To Do

Getting this far with its IR plans has been difficult for Japan and the country faced several stumbling blocks along the way. In addition to refocusing its efforts on the global pandemic, lawmakers also had to contend with a major – and very embarrassing – bribery scandal involving several politicians and would-be Chinese gaming operator 500.com. Initially, there was considerable interest from local governments to be involved in the IR industry; however, the issues that cropped up forced several to back out. The most recent was Yokohama, which left in August after a new mayor took over. Takeharu Yamanaka fulfilled a campaign promise to cease the talk about an IR there after it had been a polarizing topic for more than a year.

The IR plans had also attracted a lot of attention from gaming operators around the world when the Japanese IR Basic Policy was first approved a couple of years ago. All of the major companies in the US were ready to enter, but interest quickly waned, despite millions of dollars being spent on initial plans. Caesars Entertainment was among them, but recently changed its mind, just days before the Japanese Diet opened the submission window. It connected with Clairvest Neem Ventures to be involved with the latter’s attempt to bring an IR to Wakayama.

Now, it’s up to the local governments and their IR casino partners to prepare plans that will amaze and astonish the Japanese Diet. They have plenty of time to do it and most of the work should have already been done while the operators were working to secure their partnerships with those local governments. However, knowing that Japan could ultimately decide not to approve any project, the submissions presented have to be so overwhelmingly over the top that Japan won’t be able to say no. If things go well, the final decisions could be made within a year from now.

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