As the two-week public hearing held in Japan to present the framework for the Integrated Resort (IR) Promotion Bill drew to an end last week, industry insiders and experts based in the country updated Business Daily about their impressions of the current stakes involved in the Japan gaming bid.
“Osaka and Nagasaki demonstrated strength given the presence of dedicated administrative teams,” said Toru Mihara, an advisor to the Japanese government on the liberalisation process.
Mihara’s position corroborates recent reports according to which official interest from Osaka in hosting an IR came out strong in the second round of public hearings.
A site in Osaka Prefecture, Yumeshima Island, has already attracted interest from casino operators with business in Macau, including Melco Resorts & Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, and Las Vegas Sands Corp, this newspaper reported last week.
In its favour, Osaka was said to have drawn up a plan with hotels, convention and shopping centres, as well as cultural facilities as part of its lobbying strategy.
Another prefecture working on lobbying-through-design is Hokkaido.
Speaking to Business Daily, general manager of Gaming Capital Management Inc., Akiyoshi Tsuruoka said that the firm has been appointed by an operator as a designated representative to “conduct research on the Japanese IR project, so that the operator can enter the future IR business.”
He added that the planned site “arranged for Hokkaido IR’ is located near the airport, advancing that there are current plans to develop it ‘to improve accessibility.”
Yet, Gaming Capital’s general manager clarified that interested operators only have “sample plans based on tentative circumstances,” given that neither the municipalities nor the operators could present “concrete proposals since there are no detailed guidelines for IR projects.”
In regards to the amount of investment proposed by bidders, both Mihara and Akiyoshi concur it is so far unclear.
The “budget level is still premature to assess,” Mihara pointed out.
Public hearings questioned
Although several municipalities used the public hearings as an opportunity to intensify lobbying activities, the hearing’s main purpose was “for the government to appease the opposition,” Yasuhiro Idei, a journalist based in Tokyo, told Business Daily.
“It is a mere gesture by the government, which passed the IR bill despite the fact that the majority of Japanese are opposed to it,” Yasuhiro said.
A special government committee overseeing the gaming regulatory process was created to hold consultations from August 17 to 29 in nine cities in Japan – Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Sapporo, Nagoya, Toyama, and Takamatsu.
Opining on the level of popular support or opposition, Mihara claimed that it was “difficult” to assess due to the “quite vague way” in which the poll was conducted.
“Asking a question like ‘Whether you accept the presence of casino in your town?’ without explaining what an IR is and what a casino within an IR is, is totally distorted, giving an unfair perception toward people in general who do not know anything at all,” about the elements involved, Mihara explained.
The Diet, the upper House of the Japanese Parliament, will discuss the details of the bill this Autumn, and is expected to finalise the bill by the end of 2017.