Q&A with William Shen, Head of Caesars Entertainment Japan

Caesars Entertainment’s Japan office, located in Roppongi, Tokyo, leads the company’s on-the-ground activities and is headed up by Senior Vice President & Managing Director for Japan, William Shen.

William moved to Tokyo in 2017 to propel Caesars Entertainment’s vision of realizing a world class Integrated Resort (IR) in Japan. We asked him about life in Japan, how his experience in the IR industry has equipped him for this role, and his vision for a Caesars Japan Entertainment Resort.

Q1: Firstly, tell us about your background, and what led you to become Managing Director and Representative Officer for Caesars Entertainment Japan?

Although I was raised in Ohio, Asia was very familiar to me growing up as my aunt and uncle live in Tokyo and my cousins were raised here, so I have been visiting Japan for as long as I can remember. My grandfather also studied in Japan, and I have always been intrigued by the country and its culture. After graduating with a B.S. degree from M.I.T. and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, I began my career as a strategy consultant with Bain & Company. I was working on a project for a luxury hotel in Singapore during the time IRs were being considered, and I realized that the IR industry is not just about hospitality, but also brings together the excitement of live entertainment, retail and other attractions, all under one roof. I wanted to be a part of realizing these massive projects and joined Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas in 2006. Since joining the industry, I have been making frequent trips to Japan to support various local governments and companies in their understanding of IRs, visiting everywhere from Kushiro in north to Okinawa in south. I finally moved here permanently with my family last year to head up the Japan office.

Q2: The IR Implementation Bill has just passed. What is next for you and for Caesars’ pursuit of one of the three licenses?

Caesars has been engaged in this process for over 15 years, so we are delighted that a legislative framework is now in place. My job is to continue promoting our strengths as a trusted, transparent, and transformative partner for Japan. We will continue meeting with potential partners, raising our profile, and evaluating market opportunities; all of which require significant manpower and expertise. An important part of my role is hiring an all-Japanese local team which can lead us to success. Caesars Entertainment has the largest and most diverse footprint in the industry with over 50 hotels, resorts and casinos across five countries and projects under development in three more countries. We understand that a uniquely Japanese IR will only be successful if conceived and operated in accordance with the needs of the local community and thus developed by a team who truly understands these aims. Japan is home to a unique cultural and business environment, and Caesars Entertainment is conscious of that and respects that.

Q3: What expertise do you bring that will enable you to turn Japan’s idea for a world-class IR into a reality?

In addition to leading the company’s efforts to realize a world-class integrated resort in Japan, I concurrently serve as co-CEO of the Caesars Korea joint venture and am charged with the development of the 170,000 square meter flagship integrated resort in Incheon, Korea, representing nearly a billion U.S. dollars in investment. We are now under construction, but getting to this current stage required many years of working alongside the Korean government to understand their objectives and adapt our development. Having negotiated our 50/50 joint venture with a leading Asian developer, I also bring direct experience of structuring partnerships in Asia to building a consortium here in Japan. I now manage the project side by side with our partner and continue to help bridge the cultural differences between our two organizations to always reach positive outcomes for our venture. Caesars Entertainment’s properties feature a wide variety of partnerships, some spanning decades. Our flexible approach and wealth of experience in building and sustaining such partnerships makes us the ideal long-term partner for Japanese companies, government and community leaders.

Q4: You have been based here in Japan for around eight months now. How do you like it? What do you like to do outside of work?

My entire family and I are thrilled to be here. Before Japan, I was based in Hong Kong for ten years, so this is the first time my young daughters are experiencing the joy of four seasons. Our favorite place is Shinjuku Gyoen – we have visited at the changing of each season. We also love Japanese cuisine and are always trying out new restaurants, in fact, the first dish my daughter learned to order for herself was “tempura shrimp and udon” when she was just 2! I’m proud and a bit envious that her Japanese is already getting better than mine. Though I am a native Mandarin speaker, learning Japanese is proving to be a real challenge. I study as much as I can but it seems I just have to continue to “ganbaru…!!” (PR)