The final frontier

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Integrated Resorts in Japan should not only be about the city or the location where they are bound to set foot. They should be about the whole country.
Three high profile speakers from the industry and from a regulation advising agency participating in a panel held at G2E Asia yesterday have addressed the challenges and current status of Integrated Resort’s development in Japan, claiming a successful bid should consider the country’s culture, arts, and tradition of hospitality.
According to Jeremy Walker, Vice-President of Marketing for Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG), gaming promotion in Japan is closely connected to the promotion of tourism.
“When we talk about tourism, we are talking about national tourism, the promotion of an entire country, not only a city or a location; that is, how we are going to integrate that product, the IR, into the entire country,” he said in his opening remarks during the panel discussion.
Building on Walker’s comments, Ed Bowers, Senior Vice President Global Development of MGM Resorts International, said that the main focus should be to “create partnerships and bases around Japan, not only in the major cities, through market-led competition, establishing programmes to showcase [the country].”
Illustrating his case, he said that “in many respects, the Olympics will set up Japan for a lot of foreign tourists.”
The third speaker, Director of Regulatory Affairs, The Agenda Group, Peter Cohen, commented that “what really differentiates the bids are the design and the add-ons.”
“Last week, during the Japan Gaming Congress (JgC), people were talking about the cultural approach [to Japan], but it doesn’t necessarily mean history and tradition. Japan has many other things [such as] technology, robotics, entertainment,” he explained.
Another question discussed by the speakers concerned the market distribution between local and foreign customers.
According to Bowers, a 70- 30 split scenario between locals and foreigners “is not only about how many customers there will be, but about how much they spend.”
To Walker, another important element to ponder is the “vision” being set forth by the Japanese Government, which is, to him, “a vision to stimulate the economy and to bring visitors to the country.”
Tackling further the question of regulation, the GEG Marketing VP further suggested the Japanese Government frame the tax structure in such a way so as to foster the tourism industry.
“There is an opportunity in the tax structure, where the government might consider a percentage of the tax coming from IR for promoting tourism, to bring international and relevant events to cities. So, a little bit of adaptability and open-mindedness in terms of regulation will get them a long way,” he claimed.
In any case, Cohen stressed, “whatever you plan to do on IR [in Japan], you’ve got to deliver it to them, and then you can get along fine. If you don’t [deliver], you won’t get the co-operation you expect.”