An executive of United States-based casino group Caesars Entertainment Corp has told GGRAsia the firm has responded to a “formal request for information” (RFI) by the authorities in Tomakomai city (pictured) regarding the possibility of the gaming firm creating an integrated resort (IR) there. Tomakomai city is an industrial port on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island. The latter is a prefecture in its own right.
“In Tomakomai, we responded to the formal request for information by the city government and request for concept by the Hokkaido government,” Caesars Entertainment’s president of international development Steven Tight remarked in a written statement to us.
The Caesars Entertainment executive noted that his firm hoped its “initial proposal” for an IR there would demonstrate the casino group had been “responsive to the specific objectives and concerns of the local government”.
This included “ensuring the [IR] development is in ‘harmony with nature’, bringing back high-quality jobs to the city, promoting regional tourism and spreading economic benefits throughout Hokkaido,” Mr Tight stated.
His remarks followed the firm’s participation in a two-day “Hokkaido IR Showcase” event held in Sapporo, the prefectural capital, on January 9 and 10. The event featured discussion of the region’s potential for hosting a casino resort project. Several other U.S.-based gaming operators also attended, including Hard Rock International Inc, and U.S. regional tribal casino operator Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, known as Mohegan Sun. Macau licensees Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd and the SJM group also made presentations at the event.
Caesars Entertainment’s presentation mentioned – among other things – the economic benefits of IRs for the prefecture, and what it termed the “Las Vegas IR model”. The casino group also had a booth at the event, which it said was based on the theme of a Hokkaido sweet delicacy, known as “kuchitori”.
Hard Rock gave during the same event some details of its proposal to develop a Tomakomai resort. There too, Japan-based tourism and hospitality firm Kamori Kanko Co Ltd mentioned plans to develop a Hokkaido casino resort in partnership with the authorities of Rusutsu Village, in Hokkaido’s Shiribeshi sub-prefecture.
Elsewhere in Japan
Up to three casino projects will be permitted at yet-to-be determined locations across the country under a first wave of casino liberalisation. Hokkaido has consistently been mentioned as a potential location for one of Japan’s first such venues.
Hokkaido was one of several Japanese locations of interest to Caesars Entertainment, Mr Tight noted.
“We have been meeting with stakeholders throughout Japan, in both large cities and smaller regional areas, who share our vision for a Japanese IR partnership that truly reflects the best of Japan. We view Yokohama, Tomakomai, Osaka and Tokyo as very attractive development locations,” Mr Tight remarked to us.
He noted that his firm would continue to consider “all opportunities throughout Japan” and “not rule out any possibilities” at this stage.
Caesars Entertainment had “informally shared” its vision for an IR in Osaka, based on the concepts of “wellness, MICE and entertainment”, the executive noted. He was referring first to facilities aimed at promoting visitors’ health and well-being; and second to meetings, incentives conferences and exhibitions.
He wrote in his email to GGRAsia: “Based on what we have heard, we believe we are the only major operator to propose an IR centred on total wellness (‘ikigai’), which is in line with Kansai region’s long history of leadership in the medical and healthcare industry and also reinforces the themes proposed by Osaka for the 2025 World Expo,” Mr Tight said, referring latterly to a major international event that Osaka recently won the right to host.
Some investment analysts have said the World Expo and its infrastructure could prove complementary to an Osaka casino project, which is likely to open either in 2025 or a few years after, according to some Japanese observers with knowledge of the process.
“In Yokohama, the local government put out a request to gather information ahead of making its decision whether to raise its hand to become a candidate site,” Mr Tight noted.
“We are aware and respect that a decision has yet to be made regarding the attraction of an IR, and therefore are not at the stage of sharing information about locations or other specifics, ” the executive observed, referring to Yokohama.
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