Nagasaki May Have Been Playing Games with IR Candidates All Along

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In any competition, there is always a winner and loser and it’s not uncommon to find the losers lashing out, sometimes throwing wild accusations of cheating or fraud. In the Nagasaki integrated resort (IR) race in Japan, those accusations began even before the contest was over and they’re not slowing down. If anything, they’re developing more traction. Nagasaki is now being thrust into the spotlight, not for its ability to quickly and cleanly reach the final stage of its IR plans, but because it may have rigged the entire process.

Nagasaki Guided By “Black Force,” According to Casino Operator

Less than two weeks ago, Nagasaki announced that it had chosen Casinos Austria as its casino partner in a bid to capture one of the first three IR licenses in Japan. It beat out a group that included Oshidori and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE) and another that was led by local firm Niki for the rights to the property, with Nagasaki explaining that its decision was based on the awarding of points in several categories. It acknowledged that Oshidori was in the lead heading into the final stretch, but that Casinos Austria came from behind to win the race.

The fact that Oshidori bowed out just before the end amid allegations that Nagasaki was running a fraudulent campaign didn’t help the company’s cause, but details are now surfacing that might provide a certain amount of legitimacy to the claims. According to Inside Asian Gaming (IAG), which has received information from “multiple sources,” there was never any chance that Casinos Austria wouldn’t win, despite never having operated a casino of this scale anywhere. On the other hand, Oshidori, with its ties to MGE and previous business experience, had a more suitable background.

Both Oshidori and Niki have now released “damning evidence” showing that Nagasaki’s IR selection process may have been rigged. They allege that officials tried to get them to withdraw from the race – even as Oshidori was supposedly in the lead – and the head of a partner of Niki’s consortium, OUEN Japan Chairman Hiroshige Kobayashi, has stated, “Should public organizations representing prefectural residents [behave like this]? I can’t help but wonder if some kind of ‘black force’ is acting behind the scenes. I only hope that the truth will be revealed by the power of the people.”

Political Smear Campaigns Attempt to Discredit Oshidori

There was also an alleged smear campaign launched against Oshidori that permeated political and business circles in Nagasaki ahead of the prefecture’s final IR partner decision. IAG explains that it had received negative information about the company from multiple sources leading up to the announcement that Casinos Austria was chosen that was “clearly trying to damage Oshidori’s reputation.”

Oshidori, which withdrew from the race on August 6 amid assertions that Nagasaki was not leading a transparent competition, has released renderings of its IR concept, which it had dubbed Sails at Omura Bay. It would be difficult for anyone to say that Casinos Austria’s concept could have topped the design, which was said to “[sparkle] in the night like a sea of diamonds.” The ultimate winner published a single rendering of its concept on its website, but it disappeared without an explanation only a few hours later.

Japan’s attempts to bring casino resorts to the country have been fraught with problems and controversy, including accusations of bribery at the highest levels of the government. Should Nagasaki not have been as transparent with its process as it has claimed all along, it would be additional fodder for gambling opponents to use to show that the activity breeds corruption. More about this story is still to come, and Gambling News has reached out to Nagasaki IR officials in an effort to learn their side. Updates will be provided as more information comes in.

Update: According to a report by Nagasaki News on August 19, Oshidori has indicated that it is still active in the IR process in Nagasaki. However, it adds that the participation “is conditional on improving the unreasonable conditions of development and operation [of IR] and ensuring that the ethical selection process is implemented.”

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