Privately-held casino junket backer Suncity Group says it is partnering with international architecture firm Aedas to put forward a “tailor-made” project for an integrated resort (IR) in Japan’s Wakayama prefecture. A mock-up of the project (pictured in an artist’s rendering) was showcased at the “IR Gaming Expo 2019” trade show, that took place in Osaka in Japan last week.
“Suncity Group hopes to create the world’s first IR 2.0, a unique project combining Wakayama prefecture’s historical tradition, natural landscape and cultural essence,” Suncity Group stated in a Monday press release.
It added: “With [a] business footprint across the globe, Suncity Group has a clear understanding of integrated resorts in various countries, which enables the group to utilise its resources and experiences in resorts management and present to the world the diversity of Wakayama.”
Aedas is considered one of the largest architectural firms in the world, with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, India, mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong.
The firm has been involved in the development of a number of casino projects in Asia. According to its corporate website, Aedas had a role in the development of all of Las Vegas Sands Corp’s properties in Macau’s Cotai district, including the Venetian Macao, Sands Cotai Central and the Parisian Macao. The architecture practice additionally took part in the development of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, a property in Singapore also from Las Vegas Sands.
Aedas has had roles in casino resort projects in other Asian jurisdictions, including South Korea and the Philippines.
Suncity Group stated in its press release that it planned to make use of its “experience in film production, concerts and cultural events in mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong” to transform Wakayama into “a hub for entertainment and traditional culture”.
Suncity Group has investments in non-gaming, including in finance, real estate development, film production, concert and event planning, media, education, tourism, catering and luxury goods, according to various source materials, including its website . In 2016, the group established Sun Travel, which is said to focus on what it terms high-end global travel and entertainment services.
Monday’s release did not clarify whether Suncity Group’s plans for Japan were solely for a casino resort in Wakayama, or if the firm was also looking into other locations in the country. Japan is to allow a maximum of three resorts in a first phase of market liberalisation.
Easy access from Osaka
Suncity Group added in its Monday press release that Wakayama was “easily accessible” from Kansai International Airport, which was “only a 45-minute drive from the city and a one-hour drive from Osaka”. The firm added that the two cities could work together to become a “key driving force in the development” of Japan’s Kansai region.
Wakayama is one of eight places in Japan that are definitely considering seeking national government permission to host casino resorts, according to comments in September by Kazuyoshi Akaba, Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The others were: Hokkaido, Chiba city, Tokyo, Yokohama city, Nagoya city, Osaka, and Nagasaki.
Wakayama prefectural government has been active in pursuing the opportunity to host a casino resort. Within the prefecture, a 40-hectare (98.8-acre) artificial island known as Marina City has already been earmarked for the local authority’s plan to host an IR.
The Integrated Resorts Promotion Office of Wakayama prefecture said in August it planned to launch a request-for-proposal process “soon after” the national authorities announced the so-called “basic policy” on integrated resorts. The prefectural government did not plan to conduct a request-for-concept process, the office told GGRAsia at the time.
Those local governments qualified to apply to the national government for permission to host an IR – namely prefectures and ordinance-level cities – need to team with private-sector partners prior making their bid to the national government. But they can only do so after Japan’s central government announces the details of the IR basic policy.
Suncity Group – said by investment analysts to be one of largest organisers of VIP gambling in Macau – stated in Monday’s press release its network covered “16 countries and over 26 cities around the globe”. The firm reported operating gaming VIP clubs in Macau, the Philippines, South Korea, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The privately-held Suncity Group is a separate entity from Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd. Both companies are headed Alvin Chau Cheok Wa.
Suncity Group Holdings has been increasing its gaming investments into markets beyond Greater China. That is both in terms of new-build resorts such as in Vietnam; and in terms of deals to manage third-party-controlled properties under development in other markets, such as in Cambodia.
Suncity Group Holdings said last month it would pay nearly US$9.6 million to acquire 51 percent of Japan-based MSRD Corp Ltd, a company that owns a plot of land in the city of Miyakojima, on Miyako Island, part of the Okinawa prefecture. Suncity Group Holdings said in a filing at the time that it planned to develop a resort in the Japanese city.
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"With the mainlanders and Hong Kongers now effectively barred from entering Macau, the only rationale possible for keeping the casinos in Macau open right now is a social one which is to keep Macau residents employed"
Managing partner of IGamiX Management and Consulting Ltd