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Japan Government remain on track with IR timeline, says Minister


The Japanese government plans to stick to a previously-mentioned timetable regarding the process for licensing casino complexes in the nation, despite the negative impact on the country from the Covid-19 pandemic. So said on Monday Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Kazuyoshi Akaba (pictured below, centre).

Mr Akaba was speaking at a question-and-answer session of the budget committee of Japan’s House of Representatives, according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent.

Under a draft plan previously announced by the Japanese national government, local governments would have from January to July in 2021 to apply for the right to host a casino resort, or integrated resort (IR) as large-scale tourism complexes with casinos are known in Japan. Up to three will be permitted in a first phase of liberalisation.

Speaking to members of the House of Representatives, Mr Akaba said that as of now the national government believed it was still feasible to maintain the original draft schedule for local governments to submit their bids for a tilt at hosting a casino scheme. That was despite the national government having declared the state of emergency in several of the country’s prefectures, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting on April 8, seven prefectures in Japan have entered a state of emergency for a month. Japan had just over 7,200 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection as of noon on Monday, according to data from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

In his remarks, Mr Akaba said the national government was in contact with a number of prefecture- and city-level governments regarding their respective plans to host a casino resort, and how the coronavirus crisis was impacting IR-related works. Officials from the national government had contacted representatives from respectively Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama, Nagasaki, Tokyo and Nagoya, he reportedly added.

After choosing a private-sector partner, aspiring local governments will need to apply to the central authorities for the right to host one of the country’s first IRs.

An important factor affecting the planning process of local governments is the timing of the national government’s so-called IR basic policy. That had been due in March, according to commentary from the central authorities earlier this year.

The governing coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, first made public a draft version of the IR basic policy in September last year. The final draft is expected to confirm the schedule for the application period during which local governments can seek the right to host such a resort.

The mayor of the city of Osaka said earlier this month it was possible the request-for-proposal phase of its tilt at having a casino resort could be put back even further, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 27, Osaka prefecture had already announced delays in its IR implementation policy draft and RFP application requirements.