At many points in the IR development process it seemed that Osaka’s leaders were running the most masterful campaign to gain one of the three available licenses, but it may now be time for Mayor Ichiro Matsui and Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura to step back, take a breath, and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
AGB Nippon recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Nagasaki Vice-Governor Ken Hirata, who gave us the low-down on one of the best prepared local government IR candidacies, touching on a variety of issues of national significance.
Had the three Japanese IRs already been open for business, the crisis over the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus would have been very bad news for the industry, and Japanese gaming industry managers would now be grappling with most of the same difficulties facing Macau, Singapore, and the rest of Asia.
Genting Singapore, a major Asian IR operator deeply interested in the Japanese market, has been the most tightlipped of all of the bidders about their plans for the country. This changed significantly on Monday, however, with the issuance of an 84-page “Circular to Shareholders” that outlined a number of key points about the company’s objectives.
“Hokkaido is still a very strong location for one of the Japanese Integrated Resorts based on the concept of good food, good sports, and good nature. Our position is unchanged.” So says Robert Verdier, president of The Taffrail Group, which leads the Clairvest Group’s IR campaign in Japan, in an exclusive interview with AGB Nippon.
On the issue of IR development in Japan, the Shinzo Abe government has, from start to finish, acted like a political bulldozer, assuming that the opposition parties and the majority opinion of the Japanese people could simply be swept aside by overwhelming force. This approach has indeed taken them a long way forward, but the costs are now mounting and the limits may be in sight.
The decision by Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki to drop out of the Japan IR race does not simply remove one more local government from contention, it also represents the collapse of what was arguably the strongest IR initiative outside of the Kansai and Kanto regions, the regional IR which probably would have produced the highest financial returns.
It seemed that all and sundry in gaming circles had considered it a foregone conclusion that Osaka will be a venue for one of the first three Integrated Resorts (IR) to be developed in Japan.
The Japanese government has made little secret that it sees the expansion of the MICE industry near the heart of its ambitions for the three IRs, but experts warn that it will take more than shiny new convention and exhibition centers to deliver success. Rather, it needs a social and educational transformation in Japan that has hardly begun.