Asian casino investor NagaCorp Ltd says land at the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park (pictured) in Sasebo, part of Nagasaki prefecture, is one of the options it is looking at for development of a Japanese gaming resort.
The commentary was given to GGRAsia by Adam Steinberg, advisor to Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp’s founder and chief executive Chen Lip Keong.
Mr Steinberg was speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of an event called Kyushu-Nagasaki IR Business Connect. One of its aims was to highlight overseas casino firms’ interest in a project in that part of Japan.
At the same event, the local authorities gave a strong hint that the amusement park was the preferred site for such a venture. A 30-hectare (74.1-acre) plot of land at the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park in Sasebo could eventually serve as a site for a casino project, the governor of Nagasaki reiterated at the gathering.
NagaCorp’s Mr Steinberg told us when we asked him about the Huis Ten Bosch site: “We’re still very much evaluating in the area for our options and opportunities.”
He added: “We did not yet start the design process. It’s going to change over time.”
The executive highlighted that it was hard to be more specific until Japan’s national government had announced its ‘basic policy’ on integrated resorts or “IRs” as they are known in Japan. That policy is to outline key ideas, including the national government’s criteria for choosing which places can host a casino resort. A maximum of three is to be allowed in Japan’s first phase of liberalisation.
Mr Steinberg noted there had been “some delays in the basic guidelines”. Without knowledge yet of “exactly what is to be required”, the picture was “likely to change a lot,” he added.
NagaCorp already operates a casino resort at Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and has a development project at Primorye near Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
GGRAsia asked the NagaCorp representative whether the fact that Nagasaki’s governor was claiming strong public backing locally for a casino resort – some communities elsewhere in the country have reportedly been lukewarm on the idea – made the prefecture an attractive option.
Mr Steinberg told us: “Nagasaki is attractive… [as] there’s broad consensus. The land available [at Huis Ten Bosch]… is well laid-out.”
He added: “And the concentration of the population is attractive to us as well… in terms of the number of people per square kilometre. It is fairly concentrated when compared to some other prefectures.”
Mr Steinberg further noted: “That’s important. Because the gaming industry has learnt and understands that the further you are away from a resort, the less likely you are to visit. So having a concentration that’s within a certain distance means it will make it more efficient to attract customers.”
When asked whether NagaCorp either had formed or was forming a consortium for Nagasaki, and whether the firm would be the majority owner of such a venture, Mr Steinberg told us simply: “We’re going to evaluate the way that we can deliver the best value to Naga[Corp], to Nagasaki and the Kyushu region, and create the entity that will deliver the best value for everyone.”
GGRAsia also asked the executive if NagaCorp were considering Japan locations outside Nagasaki, or even beyond the Kyushu region where the city is located.
He told us: “‘Considering’ is a strong word. We are researching and evaluating all of Japan… the primary consideration [focus] is creating the most value for the company, the shareholders and the community.”
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