United States-based tribal casino operator Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment announced on Friday some details of its proposal to develop a casino resort in the city of Tomakomai (pictured), on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, a popular destination for international tourists.
The company said it planned to invest between US$3.5 billion to US$4.5 billion to develop a casino resort – or integrated resort (IR) as they are known in Japan – in Hokkaido, according to the Jiji Press news agency.
At a press conference on Friday, management of Mohegan Gaming said the plan involved the construction of three hotel tower, convention space and an entertainment arena. The project would also include a few other attractions, such as horse-riding facilities, ski slopes and what were termed “farming activities”, according to the company’s executives.
Mohegan Gaming’s project proposes the building of a museum showcasing the culture of the Native American tribe, as well as of the Ainu people in Hokkaido.
In April, Japan’s parliament passed a bill recognising the Ainu as an indigenous people in the country. The bill included clauses that oblige the national government to adopt policies to support and protect the cultural identity of the Ainu.
Jiji Press quoted Mohegan Gaming’s chief executive Mario Kontomerkos as saying that the company has experience in operating casino resorts in environments similar to those of Hokkaido. Mr Kontomerkos reportedly added that the group would be able to take advantage of a customer database from a venue it plans to open in South Korea in a few years.
Mohegan Gaming is already committed to expanding into Asia via a casino resort in Incheon, South Korea, to be called Inspire. The gaming part of the facility will only be open to foreign nationals. The property would cost US$1.6 billion for the first phase, with a total commitment of US$5 billion for multiple phases over a period of 20 years, the firm has said previously.
The group had flagged in May last year its interest in bidding for a Japan regional casino resort licence. The Hokkaido prefectural government is yet to decide if it will host an IR.
A maximum of three resorts will be permitted in a first phase of market liberalisation. The national government has yet to announce its so-called basic policy on IRs. That would include – among other things – the central authorities’ criteria for selecting what places should be allowed to have a casino resort.
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