The authorities in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture (pictured), are still mulling the idea of hosting an integrated resort (IR) with casino, as a way of boosting tourism and regenerating the local economy.
Hokkaido Tourism Organization is “going to look into the possibility” of the island having what was termed a “green IR,” said its head Kenji Koganezawa, according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent.
The idea was mentioned in a Tuesday announcement that included setting an annual target for Hokkaido to attract more than 10.4 million tourists, compared to the 8.36 million it received in 2019, the year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In November 2019, Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki passed up the chance of making a pitch to the country’s government to host a casino resort as part of Japan’s liberalisation process for such business. At the time, environmental concerns were cited as one reason for Hokkaido not pressing ahead with the idea.
But Tomakomai city, an economically-straitened industrial port in the island prefecture, has spoken since then of IR ambitions as part of a regeneration effort. In December 2022, a draft of its public policy plan to cover the years 2023 to 2027 mentioned promotion of a casino-resort policy.
In May this year, Japanese scholar Toru Mihara, a prominent commentator on Japan’s casino legalisation process, told GGRAsia in an interview: “I think there are some foreign investors that are still interested in some regional markets, such as Hokkaido or Okinawa.”
The only approved casino resort scheme for Japan so far involves Osaka. In late September, the prefectural government there signed an implementation agreement for it with its private-sector partners.
Osaka IR KK is a venture involving U.S.-based casino operator MGM Resorts International, Japan’s Orix Corp, and other smaller investors.
The authorities in Osaka had confirmed earlier in September that the planned timetable for opening an Osaka IR had been delayed by one year, to “autumn 2030″, and that the initial investment cost would rise by JPY190 billion (currently US$1.27 billion), to JPY1.27 trillion.
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”We committed to the government to provide a full business idea and plan for Phase 1b around 12 months after the casino opens, therefore, probably early 2025”
President of the Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort in South Korea