The governor of Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture says his administration will not pursue the opportunity of a casino resort in the first round of market liberalisation in that country.
Naomichi Suzuki presented his decision on the integrated resort or “IR” topic – as large-scale casino complexes are known in Japan – during a plenary session of the Hokkaido prefectural assembly on Friday morning.
But Mr Suzuki suggested that Hokkaido – the northernmost of Japan’s main islands (pictured) – might seek to bid to the national government to host such a scheme in any future rounds of market development.
The national government has said a maximum of three casino resorts will be permitted in the first round of liberalisation.
Under a proposal from the national government, Japan’s basic policy on the IR question would – once fully formulated and published – allow eligible places, namely prefectures or ordinance-designated cities, to submit an IR plan for the first phase of market liberalisation, and make an application to the government in the period January 4 to July 30, 2021.
Several foreign casino operators have indicated interest in investing in Hokkaido.
In October United States-based tribal casino operator Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment said it had opened a representative office in the port city of Tomakomai, an economically-depressed community which had been considered a front-runner location were Hokkaido to make a bid.
At the beginning of the year, international casino operator Hard Rock International Inc gave some preliminary detail of its ideas for its own Tomakomai IR.
In late August, U.S.-based Caesars Entertainment Corp – which at the turn of the year had answered a formal request for information from Tomakomai regarding an IR – said it was dropping plans to bid for one of the first casino licences in Japan. The firm said in a press release it was instead focusing on “current” expansion plans.
Kyodo news agency said in story filed on Thursday there had been local anxieties about a Hokkaido resort being built at a suggested site at Tomakomai, due to its proximity to Lake Utonai, a wildlife sanctuary.
The outlet said it would typically take three years to conduct an environmental impact assessment. That had raised questions about whether Hokkaido could complete such a process in time to lodge a bid with the national government for a first-round IR.
On Friday the agency quoted Governor Suzuki as telling assembly members: “An integrated resort in Hokkaido which would coexist with nature has big potential, but I thought it would be impossible for us to give due consideration to the environment in the limited period of time before the government selects the locations.”
The news outlet also mentioned on Friday that what it termed a “citizens’ group” had submitted to the Tomakomai city government a petition with 20,000 signatures of people said to be opposed to a casino scheme in that community.
On November 25 the Hokkaido government had disclosed the results of a survey that indicated 66 percent of approximately 700 local respondents said they were concerned about the possibility of a casino project, pointing to issues such as “gambling addiction” and prospects of the project’s success.
Kyodo had reported on Thursday that Liberal Democratic Party representatives on the prefectural assembly – a majority of its members – had not expressed in public a clear position on the IR question.
(Updated 4.30pm, Nov 29)
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