Population (Prefectural): 5.3 million
GDP (Prefectural): 19 trillion yen
Candidate Site: Uenae
Main IR Assets: Close proximity to New Chitose Airport, the largest in the region, as well as a port which might host cruise ships. Easy access to all of Japan’s northernmost major island, which is already a popular holiday destination.
Key Proponent: Mayor Hirofumi Iwakura
Family Name: Suzuki
Given Name: Naomichi
Role: Governor of Hokkaido
IR Stance: Unclear
Profile: Originally deployed to Hokkaido by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2008, Suzuki went on to serve two terms as mayor of Yubari. At the time of his first election in 2011, he was the youngest city mayor in the nation. In April 2019 he ran for the open position of Hokkaido Governor and was successfully elected.
Family Name: Iwakura
Given Name: Hirofumi
Role: Mayor of Tomakomai City
IR Stance: Advocate
Profile: Originally a businessman in the home construction industry, Iwakura flirted with national politics for a number of years before his first election as Tomakomai mayor in 2006, with conservative ruling party support.
Family Name: Takahashi
Given Name: Harumi
Role: Former Governor of Hokkaido Prefecture
IR Stance: Advocate
Profile: Born into a political family, Takahashi started off as a MITI (now METI) bureaucrat before leaving the ministry and successfully running for the post of Hokkaido governor, at the urging of ruling party grandee Nobutaka Machimura. She served four full terms, a total of 16 years, as governor before stepping down in April 2019.
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.
Casino opponents continue to raise their voices across the country, with rallies having occurred this week in Osaka and Tomakomai, both municipalities candidates for an IR development.
Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment has announced the opening of its office in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, where it is one of several international IR operators hoping to build a regional IR.
Political and business groups in favor of building an IR in Tomakomai city are mobilizing their forces in an attempt to ensure that Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki will decide to move forward with the contemplated IR bid.
Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki, who has been taking a go-slow approach on his decision whether or not to pursue an IR bid for the Tomakomai location, has now clearly indicated for the first time that he will hand down his verdict by the end of this year, not early next year as had been anticipated by most observers.
Rush Street Japan has unveiled its architectural team which it hopes will one day soon be designing and building an IR in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
The Hokkaido Prefectural Government has announced that it will be holding explanation meetings with the general public in five locations to both talk about its research on the issue of IR development, as well as to seek public views about the matter.
Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki has made clear that Yokohama’s entry into the IR race will not exercise any influence on his own decision as regards Tomakomai’s potential bid, and that he won’t be rushed in conducting his own decision-making process.
The first Japan IR Expo in Hokkaido has been scheduled for December 11 and 12, 2019, highlighting continuing interest in Japan’s northernmost prefecture.
Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki, who has already signaled a go-slow approach on the matter, is now expected to delay until early 2020 his final decision on whether or not to go forward with an IR bid.
The summer has brought with it some political heat in Japan’s northernmost prefecture as local government leaders struggle to determine whether or not Tomakomai city will be allowed to make an IR bid.
Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii has announced that the number of takeoff and landing slots at Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport will be increased by 20%, effective next spring.
A consortium led by Hokkaido Airport Terminal Company, operator of New Chitose Airport’s terminal buildings, has been chosen to enter exclusive talks with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to privately operate seven airports in Hokkaido.
The Hokkaido Nature Conservation Society has come out against an IR bid from within the prefecture, arguing that it could damage the region’s precious natural environment.
Even while the pro-IR political momentum in Hokkaido appears to have stalled, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment is moving forward with its plans to bid for a Tomakomai IR, outlining its plans in a release to the Japanese media at the end of June.
According to its latest financial report, the Clairvest Group of Canada, now seeking an IR license in a Japanese regional market, has C$886.5 million (about US$673 million) available for future acquisitions through treasury funds, credit facilities, access to funds in its acquisition entities and uncalled committed capital, a figure which is slightly higher than recent quarters.
If a new poll by the Hokkaido Shinbun is to be believed, public opinion in the northernmost prefecture has shifted strongly in opposition to an IR bid.
The central government’s delay in firming up the regulatory framework for the IR industry appears to have convinced new Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki that he might as well shift to a slower lane as well, taking more time to decide his basic policy on whether or not to pursue an IR bid.
The Tomakomai IR Promotion Council has released a three-minute video pitching the importance of building the “Hokkaido White IR” in their city.
In the wake of the elections last Sunday, the political forces within the Tomakomai City Council that support Mayor Hirofumi Iwakura and the city’s IR bid have strengthened their hand.
Hard Rock Japan’s Tomakomai office has now opened—shortly after the election of Governor Naomichi Suzuki and a conservative prefectural assembly has kept the city’s IR hopes very much alive.
As the dust settles from the two rounds of the Unified Local Elections, the results that have emerged represent the best-case scenario for IR development, with conservatives in control of all of the key offices and legislative bodies.
Just days before she is set to leave office, outgoing Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi has made her clearest statements of support for the prefecture to back Tomakomai city’s prospective IR license bid.
On Sunday, the official campaign period began for the second round of the Unified Local Elections, which will include mayoral elections in Sasebo and city council races in the cities of Sasebo, Wakayama, and Tomakomai, where debate over local IR plans is expected to be the top political issue.
Hokkaido Tourism Organization Chairman Yoshihiro Sekihachi made clear in recent statements to the Nihon Keizai Shinbun that he supports two specific measures to stimulate the growth of tourism: the development of an IR within the prefecture and instituting a special tourist tax.
Conservative Naomichi Suzuki defeated opposition-backed Tomohiro Ishikawa in the Hokkaido gubernatorial race, keeping open the prospect that Tomakomai city might be allowed to make an IR bid.
The Hokkaido Gambling Addiction Countermeasure Promotion Council held its first meeting last Thursday at the prefectural government office, with topics such as the procedures for status checks on gambling addiction in the prefecture discussed among council leaders.
Media polls agree that Naomichi Suzuki, the conservative candidate backed by the ruling party, has the edge with about three weeks to go until the April 7 Hokkaido gubernatorial election.
Left-leaning opposition parties are stepping up their political push against the establishment of casino gambling within their local communities, provoking new developments in both the Kanagawa and Hokkaido gubernatorial election campaigns.
The Nihon Keizai Shinbun held its second IR seminar on March 5, this time in Sapporo, Hokkaido, before an audience of 367 people.
As the prefecture heads toward the April 7 gubernatorial and prefectural assembly elections, a poll conducted by the Hokkaido Shinbun found that 66% of local residents oppose the construction of an IR within the prefecture.
In an exclusive interview with AGB Nippon, Mohegan CEO Mario Kontomerkos explained that it was his tribal operator’s focus on “generational sustainability” and its “serious and deep connections with the community” that sets it apart from the other half dozen or so international operators that have taken a keen interest in Tomakomai.
As anticipated, the issue of an IR bid is becoming one of the top points of contention in the Hokkaido gubernatorial race. To stress the vital importance he puts on the issue, Japan Communist Party Secretary-General Akira Koike, in a rare move, personally handed his party’s recommendation to the united opposition candidate Tomohiro Ishikawa at an event held, pointedly, at Tomakomai Citizen Hall.
After an unusually long period of complexity and confusion in both the conservative and opposition camps, it is now emerging that the April Hokkaido gubernatorial race will pit liberal Tomohiro Ishikawa, 45, against conservative Naomichi Suzuki, 37.
Kamori Kanko President Hisatake Kamori has stepped up his public campaign to gain an IR license at Rusutsu village, claiming that it could become the “first mover” in the industry as it is prepared to quickly open its doors.
Having opened its local office in last December, Rush Street Japan is enhancing its community engagement in Tomakomai, where it hopes to be selected as the operator partner for a Hokkaido IR bid.
Naomichi Suzuki, the 37-year-old mayor of Yubari city, has stepped forward as the ruling party’s presumptive candidate for governor of Hokkaido prefecture. With his candidacy will lay the prospects for the Tomakomai IR development project to go forward.
The prospects for an IR bid from Hokkaido received a boost on Tuesday when the Hokkaido Economic Federation declared itself in support of an IR development.
The Hokkaido IR Experts’ Committee held its fourth and final meeting on Monday, producing no surprises but once again declaring that Tomakomai city should be the preferred IR host community from within the prefecture.
The inaugural Hokkaido IR Showcase came to a close last Thursday, as seven IR operators and numerous other Japanese companies and associations exhibited at the first public IR event to be held in the prefecture.
Rush Street Japan has launched its “My Tomakomai” online platform in both Japanese and English languages to solicit local community views about the elements which should be integrated into a Tomakomai IR.
Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment made their first strides in the northernmost prefecture on Wednesday at the Hokkaido IR Showcase held at the Axes Sapporo Exhibition Hall.
Hard Rock took initiative at the Hokkaido IR Showcase on Wednesday with a presentation of their master plan for Hokkaido. Chairman Jim Allen presented a building model of their proposed property, making sure to namedrop Japanese electronics heavyweight NEC for their facial recognition technology and luxury hospitality brand Four Seasons for their high-end hotels.
Hokkaido’s leading tourism and hospitality company, Kamori Kanko, has reasserted its claim that its ski resort at Rusutsu village should become the basis for the prefecture’s hoped-for IR bid, attempting to shoulder aside the Tomakomai candidacy favored by most international IR operators and the experts advising the Hokkaido Prefectural Government.
The two-day Hokkaido IR Showcase is set to open tomorrow—Wednesday, January 9—with seven overseas IR operators offering sponsorship to the event. The seven are Hard Rock, Mohegan, SJM, Caesars, Melco, Rush Street, and Clairvest.
Every local government IR bid in the nation remains dependent upon conservative or the right wing forces remaining in power in all major executive and legislative bodies. There is not a single left-of-center political party or major institution that isn’t hostile to casino legalization and ready to pull the plug on the local IR plans.
Again demonstrating its clear focus on a Hokkaido IR bid, Hard Rock Japan has announced that it has sponsored a snow sculpture for the famous Sapporo Snow Festival to be held next February.
Harumi Takahashi has confirmed that she will be stepping down as governor of Hokkaido Prefecture next spring, a serious blow to prospects for a local IR bid.
Rush Street Gaming has an unbroken record of success, and that is why they are confident in winning an IR license in Japan at this time. So says Neil Bluhm, the company’s chairman and noted Chicago billionaire in an exclusive interview with AGB Nippon.
Despite the enthusiasm of the Tomakomai municipal government, dark political clouds seem to be gathering over the prospects for an IR bid from Hokkaido.
As widely anticipated, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government has indicated that Tomakomai would be the “priority candidate” for any IR bid emerging from the prefecture, dimming the rival hopes of Kushiro city and Rusutsu village.
Casinos Austria International Japan (CAIJ) is planning to build its IR bid on the security that comes with choosing a state-run casino operator, and it will be based on the themes of classical music and medical care, according to CAIJ President Akio Hayashi in an exclusive interview with AGB Nippon.
Hard Rock Japan, which is aiming to build an IR at Tomakomai, Hokkaido, has concluded an agreement to become the “Official Top Partner” of Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, the local professional soccer team. The financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
In early October, Rush Street Gaming’s Japan branch was quietly established, with the Chicago-based firm currently looking at Tomakomai, Hokkaido, as the main direction for its IR license campaign.
Moody's Investors Service has put the credit rating of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which is now mulling an IR bid in Tomakomai city and perhaps elsewhere, on review for a downgrade.
A poll conducted by the Hokkaido Shinbun has revealed that public opinion in the northernmost prefecture is quite cold to the notion of building an IR—65% say they oppose a Hokkaido IR and only 33% support it.
In addition to Clairvest and Hard Rock, both Rush Street Gaming and Mohegan are in the process of opening offices in Tomakomai city, Hokkaido, a report in the local newspaper, Tomakomai Minpo, has revealed.
Even by Japanese standards this was a rough summer in terms of natural disasters: floods, heatwaves, typhoons, and earthquakes battered the nation in rapid succession. Had there already been IRs established in, for example, Osaka or Wakayama or Hokkaido, they clearly would have been seriously impacted. Indeed, the entire nation recorded its first monthly decrease in foreign tourism this summer in many years, probably because of news of these natural calamities.
Foxwoods Resort Casino, based in the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation within the US state of Connecticut, is among the six international IR operators that are mulling a bid to partner with Tomakomai city, Hokkaido, to build an IR.
The municipal government of Tomakomai city is in the midst of offering a series of lectures to local residents for the purpose of building support for the IR construction plan. There are a total of seventeen such lectures, each held in a different location in the city.
The Experts Committee established by Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi held its third meeting on Wednesday and declared that among the three municipalities vying for prefectural government’s support, Tomakomai clearly held the advantage.
It would appear that the competition to partner with the Tomakomai municipal government has now narrowed down to six serious suitors—Caesars, Hard Rock, Mohegan, Rush Street, Clairvest, and Foxwoods.
Organizers have announced that the “First Hokkaido IR Showcase” will be held in Sapporo city on November 30 and December 1 of this year, including participation from all three mayors of the municipalities who are currently angling for the support of the prefectural government in making IR bids.
In an extraordinary measure to boost tourism in Hokkaido, which has been hit hard by cancellations following the massive September 6 earthquake, the central government has instituted a program to subsidize both foreign and domestic tourists.
Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi visited Tokyo on Tuesday to make a number of requests related to recovery from the massive earthquake earlier this month, some of these requests highlighting the need to strengthen the tourist infrastructure against blackouts and similar emergencies.
Hard Rock International has pledged US$100,000 to the Japan Red Cross for relief efforts connected with the Hokkaido Earthquake, which killed 41 people and injured many more.
New figures show that Hokkaido attracted a record number of tourists in FY2017—56.1 million people—which was a 3% advance over the previous fiscal year.
The Experts Committee established by Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi held its second meeting on August 30, this time hearing presentations from the three municipalities—Tomakomai, Rusutsu, and Kushiro—which are nominally in the race for prefectural government’s support.
Several international IR operators have been meeting with members of the Tomakomai Chamber of Commerce & Industry to discuss their bids to partner with this northern Japanese city.
A heavyweight battle between four major consortia is shaping up in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, with the rights to operate seven airports over a thirty-year period on the line.
The Hokkaido gubernatorial race is already informally underway. Incumbent Harumi Takahashi spoke with leaders of Tomakomai’s business community last Friday about the city’s potential IR bid in connection with her own political future.
The Experts Committee established by Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi to help give a IR bid political momentum vis-a-vis a skeptical prefectural assembly, held its first meeting on July 31. It declared that the candidate site would be settled by the end of the year.
In a move apparently meant to buy time and give her political cover, Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi indicated within the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly on Wednesday that she would be setting up an experts’ committee later in this month to consider the advisability of an IR bid.
Although widely considered one of the most likely prefectures to win an IR bid, a survey conducted by the Hokkaido Shinbun reveals that the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly might, in fact, block the establishment of an IR within its jurisdiction, potentially bringing to naught the bids of Tomakomai city and Rusutsu village.
Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, was interviewed by a Japanese camera crew at the June 28 opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, and apparently made definitive comments that Hard Rock’s IR bid in Japan was now entirely focused on Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
Tomakomai Mayor Hirofumi Iwakura, a strong advocate for hosting an IR in his northern Japanese city, won a fourth 4-year term in office after no other candidate registered before the filing deadline.
Hard Rock Japan is preparing to open an office in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, in August or September, a further signal that the Orlando, Florida, based operator is focusing its IR efforts on this regional city.
Hiroya Ebina, mayor of Kushiro city, was remarkably frank during his appearance at the Japan Gaming Congress in Tokyo that he now fully backed the rival bid of Tomakomai city, which he agreed could become the “gateway to Hokkaido” for visiting tourists.
The Hokkaido Prefecture Government estimates that an IR placed at Tomakomai city would draw more visitors and produce more revenues than its local rivals.