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Japanese Government reviewing development timeline of Integrated Resorts

The Japanese government is reviewing the possibility of introducing changes to its timetable for licensing casino resorts in the country, because of Covid-19, said the nation’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Kazuyoshi Akaba.

The official said the national government’s stance was based on the negative impact that the pandemic was having on prefectural authorities interested in hosting integrated resorts (IRs), as casino complexes are known in that country, and also on potential candidates for operating such venues, according to local media reports.

“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,” Mr Akabe said at a press briefing on Friday, as quoted by Japanese newspaper Sankei Biz.

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

A factor of concern mentioned by international casino operators in relation to Japan, is the fact that the national government has not yet published its so-called basic policy on IRs. That has also led prefectural governments to delay their respective processes in choosing a private-sector partner.

It had been previously mentioned in government circles and by investment analysts that the national basic IR policy was to be released by July 26. But a news report in late July, citing a national government-linked source, said that the publication of the final version of the document would be delayed until August or later.

The finalised basic policy should confirm the national government’s timetable for the development of casino resorts in the country.

As things stand, local governments – in concert respectively with a selected private-sector partner – must apply in the first half of 2021 to the national government for the right to host a casino resort.

A senior official in Yokohama, a Japanese city that has been courting investors in an effort to get a casino resort, said last week it would approach potential candidates to see whether their previous financial modelling on such a project remains viable in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pre-crisis, a figure of as much as US$10 billion had been mentioned for a big-city casino resort.

Yokohama and the prefecture of Osaka, in the Kansai region, are leading contenders to host one of up to three casino resorts to be permitted in Japan in a first phase of liberalisation.

Most of the international casino operators that have been publicly linked with pursuit of a Japan project are already coping with either a large downturn in casino gross gaming revenue from existing operations, or ongoing temporary closure of facilities.

Casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd – which had previously announced a “Yokohama focus” –confirmed last week that it was “pretty much ceasing” its efforts in Japan, at least until there were meaningful developments regarding that market.