Clairvest: Hokkaido’s IR Bid May Yet Reemerge

“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.

Among other things, Verdier cleared up one lingering question about Clairvest’s activities in Hokkaido, which was whether or not it was aiming to become an operator: “Clairvest is not in the race. Clairvest is an investor,” he explained, “We are not competing with the three operators.”

He was referring to Hard Rock, Rush Street, and Mohegan, all of whom are believed to remain committed to their Hokkaido bids. Verdier believes Clairvest could become an investment partner to any one of the three, each of with which it maintains good relations.

According to Verdier, it was a misunderstanding to understand Governor Naomichi Suzuki’s late November comments as a declaration that Hokkaido was completely dropping out of the IR race, as did municipalities such as Chiba city. Rather, the governor was merely indicating that certain environmental issues at the proposed Uenae location in Tomakomai city meant that a bid could not be prepared in time to fit the national schedule. He praises the governor’s decision as being the right one.

Verdier indicated that Clairvest and at least two of the three interested IR operators are now searching for an alternative. “Now the point is to find another location which is cleared of any environmental issue, and find it within a frame of time which allows Hokkaido to be part of the national competition.”

Verdier believes, however, that the clock is ticking: “There is a kind of window of opportunity until the end of March to find an alternative location.”

The end of March is the deadline, he believes, both because Hokkaido Prefecture will need to fix an IR development budget in the event that its bid is revived, and because the operators themselves will need some months to compile their RFPs for consideration and selection.

As for the rumors appearing in some parts of the Japanese media that selection of one of the licensed IR locations might be delayed, Verdier affirmed that he had just heard about this idea from a “major player” with “very good intelligence about what is going on at the central government.” He was given to understand that indeed the central government is seriously discussing the idea of first licensing two IRs, and holding back one for an additional year or two.

Some Japanese media reports assert that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is behind these plans for a delay, and that his intention is precisely to ensure enough time that Hokkaido’s bid can reemerge and win the third license. (AGB Nippon)