Groupe Lucien Barrière, a French hospitality brand that operates casinos in France, Switzerland and Egypt, has been making public this week its play for a Japan casino licence.
On Tuesday Jonathan Strock, a senior executive of the group, attended an event in Wakayama prefecture in the Kansai region, to mark the opening of the group’s Japan office. Also attending the event was Jean Reno, a French actor who has made the transition to international recognition via many Hollywood roles. Mr Reno is described as the group’s brand ambassador.
On Thursday – speaking in his capacity as president of Lucien Barrière Japan – Mr Strock (pictured) gave a presentation at the Japan Gaming Congress 2019 in Tokyo.
The event is the latest edition of an annual conference organised by Clarion Events Ltd about the business opportunities for Japan’s nascent casino industry. It has also – since its inception in 2014 – acted as a sort of roadshow for foreign casino companies wishing to make pitches to Japanese lawmakers and the Japanese public, regarding why their firms would be suitable partners for casino schemes there.
Mr Strock told conference delegates that the Barrière brand’s “core values” centred on achieving excellence in its operations. That included “excellence in hotels, hotel management, casino operations and restaurants,” he stated.
The group consists of two main parts: Société Fermière du Casino Municipal de Cannes, which according to that unit’s website, is majority owned by the Desseigne-Barrière family and is listed on Euronext in Paris. The other part, Groupe Lucien Barrière, runs luxury hotels in France and Morocco, as well as golf courses and restaurants according to that unit’s own website. That unit also promotes shows and other entertainment.
Mr Strock said that for Japan, the brand wanted to introduce something distinctively Japanese, rather than trying to impose something from outside. With that in mind, it had hired a leading Japanese architect for its design plans.
“We don’t want to bring in something from outside, we want naturally-Japanese resorts,” Mr Strock stated.
He also stressed that “what he termed integrity” was central to the brand’s business. “Integrity is the foundation of the business, we have very long contracts… in various countries,” he noted. That was understood to be a reference to the gaming part of the business.
Mr Strock also addressed the issue of responsible gambling – a matter of particular public and governmental concern in Japan in the run up to having its own casinos.
“Responsible gambling has been one of the core” elements in the brand’s casino business, the executive stated.
Only a maximum of three so-called integrated resorts, or “IRs”, will be allowed in the Japan market in a first phase of market liberalisation, and it could be the middle of next decade at the earliest, before any of them are ready to open.
In late March Japan’s cabinet confirmed that core facilities required for IRs would be: convention space; exhibition space; hotel space; that each IR should function as a representation of Japanese culture and as a Japan-wide attraction; and that each should act as a gateway for other forms of tourism in each resort’s hinterland.
Another gaming company from the francophone world – Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Étrangers à Monaco, known as SBM, and which runs Monaco’s celebrated Casino de Monte-Carlo – is also pitching for a Japan licence in partnership with Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.
In 2015 Galaxy Entertainment took a 5 percent stake in SBM, which is majority owned by the government of Monaco. The current head of state of the principality is Prince Albert. Galaxy Entertainment has made reference to SBM’s royal connections in publicity materials relating to its Japan effort.
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Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts