Japan National IR Casino Opening Pushed Back Beyond 2025

Plans for opening the first integrated casino resort in Japan suffered a setback after an official announcement at a joint sub-committee meeting pushed the original 2025 date for the second half of the 2020s.

IR Casino Opening Delayed to Late 2020s

The Japanese government admitted it would not be able to have its first IR casino operation by the end of 2025, following on a previous announcement that postponed the application period for local governments, which was set to begin in January 2021 but would now launch in October 2021, a delay of 9 months.

The Japan Tourism Agency noted the substantial drop in the number of inbound visitors to the country since the coronavirus outbreak, as well as local governments allocating efforts and resources to combat the further spread of the infection paired with global travel restrictions, forced a revision of its Basic Policy draft in October.

The new policy included additional health and safety measures and cleaning and sanitizing requirements to tackle the issue of casinos facilitating the spread of infectious virus diseases. In addition, the revised draft made provisions for the operators to implement gambling harm-protective measures to address the heightened sensibility of prefectures in terms of gambling addiction.

Japanese government is set to evaluate and adopt the revised policy by the end of the year, a decision that will influence the request-for-proposal (RFP) in at least 4 prefectures which so far expressed strong interest in competing for one of the three slots for IR casinos available nationwide.

Potential Candidates

Nagasaki prefecture announced intentions to take part in the national IR tilt by proposing an IR casino in the area nearby the Huis Ten Bosch theme park. Recently, prefecture officials expressed their openness for further interest from the private sector ahead of the official launch of its RFP, to add to already 4 strong candidates to partner the local government.

Osaka and its Yumeshima IR project, after suffering delay after delay, took a sudden turn for the worse after a referendum vote rejected the administrative reorganization proposals and prompted Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui to announce his intention to retire from politics at the end of his term. Despite not affecting the IR plans directly, the negative vote impacted the leaders and champions behind the IR application, throwing the future of the project into further doubt.

Japan’s Prefecture of Wakayama announced in May it would delay its RFP process to move the initial August 31 deadline for candidates to submit applications to October 19, due to the prefecture being affected by the period of national emergency which restricted domestic travel and business activities. In November, Wakayama announced it would extend the scheduled opening of an IR casino on the artificial island of Wakayama Marina City by one year until the spring of 2026.

The fourth candidate, Yokohama, also suffered a setback after a resident group submitted a petition supported by 200,000 signatures to ask for a referendum to decide on the IR bid, prompting Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi to express the public concern and worries about realizing an IR project in the region.

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