Japan Makes Progress with IR activity as Yokohama and Wakayama Make Updates

Japan’s efforts to introduce integrated resorts (IR) and casino gambling to the country are making progress, even if they had to put things on hold for a while because of COVID-19. The country will initially allow three IRs to be built and, although there was a great deal of enthusiasm initially, the race to be a part of the industry has lost several players along the way. Nagasaki is determined to be involved and has made considerable headway with its plans, and Yokohama and Wakayama have now taken significant steps forward, as well.

Yokohama Battle Down to Two

Yokohama, which has invested significant funds in the hopes of being one of the first IR hosts, has narrowed its list of casino operator candidates down to two, according to an announcement by the city Monday. Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts & Entertainment have made the cut to present their plans for a casino resort, just weeks after Galaxy Entertainment decided that Yokohama wasn’t a suitable option. A fourth entity, Japanese Shotoku Corp, had responded to the request-for-proposal (RFP), but was rejected.

The two remaining candidates will now try to outdo each other to win the nomination. Genting is seen as the forerunner, as it has partnered with two high-profile Japanese gaming companies, Sega Sammy Holdings and Kajima Corp., to present and run its project. Both companies have until June 11 to submit their proposals. 

Wakayama Partners With Clairvest

Wakayama has had difficulty making progress with its selection of a private sector partner. It announced in January of last year that it would delay a decision after narrowing its options down to Suncity Group and a consortium led by Clairvest Group. The prefecture planned on having a final choice made by this past January, but needed more time in order to carve out some remaining details. The decision has now been made, although it wasn’t difficult. Clairvest has been chosen after Suncity Group backed out last month.

Suncity withdrew from the race on May 12, explaining that the delays in Japan’s IR process, along with COVID-19, had caused it to re-evaluate its plans. That may have been a bad move for the company because, according to Wakayama’s announcement, Suncity had scored higher than Clairvest in the RFP review. The prefecture and Clairvest, which also includes a company that had previously hoped to be part of Nagasaki’s IR plans, TTR Resorts, will now collaborate on the IR project and Wakayama expects its new partner to provide “further refinement of the proposal contents and strengthening of the project implementation system.”

Japan’s IR Industry Comes Into Focus

Nagasaki has made significant progress with its IR plans this year and is confident that it is in a great position to score one of the first three approvals. MGM Resorts is reportedly the only contender left in the hunt for a casino in Osaka, and someone is going to end up being pushed out of the race. With only three licenses expected to be authorized in the first round, but four locations in the competition, one is likely going to be rejected. However, Japan could still authorize an additional location, which wouldn’t be a bad move after losing so much time already. Initially expected to launch by 2024 or 2025, the first IRs now won’t be ready until at least 2027 at the earliest.