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.
From last November, when Osaka won its bid to host the 2025 World Expo, until August of this year, when Yokohama announced that it was entering the race, Osaka Yumeshima was looking like it would become host to the grandest and most successful IR in Japan.
The race to gain one of the three available IR licenses is advancing into the decisive stage, with Japanese local governments and international IR operators eagerly lining up for approval. However, the Japanese general public remains broadly on the sidelines, not waiting in anticipation, but rather sullenly watching developments they don’t approve of.
Having telegraphed its intention to do so since March, the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce & Industry has finally launched its pro-IR organization, dubbed the “Yokohama IR Promotion Association.”
Melco Resorts & Entertainment made several major announcements at a press event in Tokyo on Tuesday, including that Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka has become brand ambassador and sports group director for the company’s Yokohama IR bid.