Nagasaki pauses its integrated resort plans

by William Brown Last Updated
New casino would need North Carolina governor approval

A Japanese prefecture has halted its request for proposal process to host a casino resort.

GGR Asia reports that Nagasaki’s proposal has been postponed indefinitely.

The prefectural government noted it would decide later, an “appropriate time” for launching the RFP process, but said preparation work for launching the RFP process, but said preparation work would still go on for an integrated resort.

A Monday announcement mentioned the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions as reasons for halting the process.

There was no mention of the resignation on Friday as prime minister of Shinzo Abe, whose government had steered the casino liberalisation policy.

Nagasaki is the latest in a number of local authority suitors for a casino complex, or integrated resort as they are known in Japan, to announce a pause on their casino ambitions.

Yokohama and Osaka did so even before Mr Abe stepped down.

Nagasaki had previously indicated the RFP process could be launched before the Japanese summer ended, but it now says casino resort operators, the sort of entities that could eventually become a private-sector partner for the prefecture – had suggested the postponement.

Such operators reportedly cited the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and travel restrictions that limit their opportunities for on-site visits in Japan.

Land at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo City has been earmarked by Nagasaki as the site of an integrated resort project.

Three companies had previously confirmed to GGR Asia their respective intention to participate in Nagasaki’s RFP process.

They were: Japan’s Current Corp; a Japan unit of Casinos Austria International Holding GmbH; and Hong Kong-listed Oshidori International Holdings.

Osaka prefecture and city, confirmed last week a pause for its casino RFP.

Subsequently on Friday, the mayor of Osaka and the governor of Osaka prefecture respectively suggested that provided Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party stays at the centre of national government, then the resignation of Shinzo Abe last Friday as the country’s prime minister, should not derail Japan’s introduction of casinos.

Banking group Nomura said in a Friday memo, offering commentary on Mr Abe’s departure, that were Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary under Mr Abe – and touted in some quarters as a successor – to take over the top job, the casino policy would in likelihood remain in place.

A number of Japanese news outlets have reported that Mr Suga was expected to put himself forward as Mr Abe’s replacement.

On August 19, the mayor of Yokohama, spoke of an indefinite delay in issuing the local implementation policy on the casino resort initiative, citing the fact the national government had not yet issued its own so-called basic policy on IRs.

Japan’s casino licensing process could be delayed due to COVID-19

The Japanese Government is considering making changes to its integrated resorts timeline due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

European Gaming reported in August that Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kazuyoshi Akaba has said the government is planning to change the timetable for licensing casino resorts.

According to the minister, the government is assessing the pandemic’s negative impact on the casino sector.

He told the media that: “Some IR operators who have partnered with local governments are in a difficult situation due to the impact of the new coronavirus, and there have been opinions saying that the future is uncertain.”

He reportedly added: “We will act carefully, and once we have properly confirmed the situation with local governments on the ground.”

It must be noted that the Japanese government has not yet published a basic policy on IRs. Lack of such a policy also forces the prefectural governments to postpone their own processes of selecting a private-sector partner.

Earlier, the government had reportedly decided to publish an IR policy on July 26. A change of timeline of IR licensing now looks inevitable, the report said.

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