Efforts to bring casino gambling to Japan through integrated resorts (IR) continue, despite a few stumbles along the way. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress down considerably and it didn’t help that a national legislator was caught up in an IR bribery scandal with a Chinese gaming company, 500.com. Having overcome those issues, 2021 appears to be the year for definitive resolutions on how the country’s IR landscape will look. Nagasaki has always been on the shortlist as a possible host location and recently wrapped up a request for proposal (RFP) process to receive input from potential gaming operators. As the prefecture moves forward with its IR initiatives, it is now establishing a new committee to ready the area for a potential casino resort.
Kyushu IR Council Now In Place
According to Masahiko Kunihiro of Nagasaki’s IR Planning Department, the Kyushu IR Council (KIRC) has now officially been launched following its announcement last year. Kyushu is Japan’s fifth-largest island and home to, among others, the Nagasaki prefecture. The council is comprised of the Kyushu Governors’ Association, the Kyushu Prefectural Council Chair Association, the Kyushu Economic Federation and other private entities from the Kyushu region. The KIRC launch ceremony took place this past Monday at the Hotel New Otani in Hakata, Fukuoka, another of Kyushu’s prefectures.
The council was formed to collaborate on a number of issues related to Nagasaki’s bid to bring an IR to the region. It will be involved with the review of RFP responses, of which Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment is a top candidate, and will also work with local businesses “to better prepare local companies to take advantage of upcoming opportunities.” The first interaction with those businesses has already been put on the schedule and is expected to take place this June in Sasebo, the Nagasaki city that is the most likely candidate to host an IR.
Kyushu Optimistic On Nagasaki
Nagasaki, unlike other potential IR locations, hasn’t wavered from its goal of bringing a casino resort to the area. In addition to the economic benefits the area would enjoy, Kyushu’s leaders also take a lot of pride in what the area has to offer the tourism industry. According to KIRC Chair Yutaka Aso, “Kyushu has long been the country’s international gateway and has developed with the support of the visitors who frequent the region. In modern times, Kyushu’s proximity to Asia has strengthened this gateway role and has led to stronger international relations.
“An integrated resort in this historic region will create opportunities to promote Kyushu and inbound tourism, increase international MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) demand and further develop the economies of the region and the rest of Japan. Kyushu is ready to take the initiative in bringing regional growth for the next generation through the development of the integrated resort.”
With three gaming operators having passed the RFP round, Nagasaki will now submit those three to a scrutinizing review. It is likely that a final candidate will be chosen sometime this summer, but there is still a lot of work to do before casino resorts arrive in Japan. Initially expected to be launched in 2023 or 2024, the first IR most likely won’t be ready until 2028 or later.