Japan government announces setback on integrated resorts

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in Japan has announced that it will not be approving any plans for integrated resorts (IRs) in the country this year, as it is still working out the details for the gaming venues in the prefectures of Osaka and Nagasaki.

Though Japan legalized gambling some years ago, it is yet to have a government-approved casino resort. In April this year, both prefectures of Osaka and Nagasaki submitted bids to each have one of the three integrated resorts that have been slated for the country. Both cities outlined the benefits of having the IRs, especially in terms of revenue, tourism and more.

For Osaka, it plans to have an IR worth $9 billion on Yumeshima Island, with the help of a consortium between ORIX Corp. and MGM Resorts. On the other hand, Nagasaki is proposing a $3 billion property in Sasebo City in partnership with Casinos Austria International. Osaka had hopes that its IR would be completed by 2024-2025 but as the government of Japan seems to be taking its time, the next viable time of completion would be 2029, while for Nagasaki 2027.

The board, which contains experts in areas such as tourism and economics, was supposed to have reached a decision in October, which would give the prefectures rights to proceed with preliminary work. However, the committee is holding its horses due to some issues with the bids. Meanwhile, experts are speculating the delay might also be caused by public response toward the project.

Citizens of Osaka are claiming the government will be using millions of dollars of taxpayer money to fund the project, in addition to the environmental impact of the construction. Osaka residents have gone as far as collecting 208,552 votes for a referendum asking for the casino not to be built. However, the prefectural government last month took pains to put together and submit a document meant to allay the fears of the citizens concerning the project. Nevertheless, the proposed IR will take a longer time than expected. This will invariably put a cog in the wheels of investors and casino partners as the return on their investment will not yield as soon as they had planned.

The decision-making process concerning the bids are being made behind closed doors “in order to ensure the frank exchange of opinions and the neutrality of decision-making in the committee, the examination committee meetings regarding the approval of the area development plan are closed to the public”. But the government has assured the public results of the accreditation will be made open once the plans have been approved.