An advisory panel has recommended that Tomakomai City (pictured), an industrial port, would be the most suitable location were Hokkaido prefecture in the north of the country to bid to host a casino resort in the first phase of Japan’s casino liberalisation policy.
Kushiro City and Rusutsu Village had also been on a shortlist of candidate places in Hokkaido considered by the panel. The panel was said to be made up of experts including academics specialising in university degree-level tourism studies; and doctoral-level researchers on gambling addiction.
The panel’s recommendation of Tomakomai came following a meeting it held on Wednesday.
U.S.-based casino group Caesars Entertainment Corp is said to have presented plans to develop a project in the port city of Tomakomai, according to media reports in March. In a late August meeting hosted by Tomakomai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Caesars Entertainment – and independently Clairvest Group Inc, a private equity firm from Canada – explained plans for developing a casino resort project in the city, according to information previously gathered by GGRAsia.
Another U.S.-based casino operator and hospitality group, Hard Rock International Inc, had stated it planned to open an office in Tomakomai this year.
According to the latest information gathered by GGRAsia, the panel’s decision to recommend Tomakomai took into account operator interest, economic conditions, and ease of access from and to New Chitose Airport, an international air hub close to the city.
A total of 15 corporations was said to have responded to a request-for-information initiative by Hokkaido prefecture: eight overseas gaming operators; and seven domestic corporations. The only domestic investor to declare publicly its interest is said to be Capital & Innovation Co Ltd.
Tomakomai’s proximity to the tourism and winter sports centre of Sapporo City and to New Chitose Airport were said to be factors in the expert panel’s considerations. A potential site for a Tomakomai resort is said to be only 10 minutes by road from the air hub.
A further meeting of the panel is due to prepare a recommendation to the Hokkaido government as to whether it should try hosting a so-called integrated resort (IR).
Were a Hokkaido candidate to be put forward, it would still have to compete in a national government selection process, likely to happen in 2020 or later. Tokyo has said only three resorts will be allowed nationally in a first phase of market liberalisation.
In other news, Wakayama prefecture in the populous Kansai region further south, has announced some changes to its IR concept, after it solicited views of would-be investors via its own request-for-information process.
According to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, the key revisions are to anticipate how a Wakayama casino property – still based on the idea of a holiday resort – might complement an urban casino resort in the neighbouring Kansai region city of Osaka, in the event that the two places are successful with their respective bids. Osaka is considered by some commentators to be a front runner if it comes to a head-to-head competition between the two places.
Other aspects of Wakayama’s proposal, as outlined to GGRAsia by the prefecture’s governor in a May interview, are said to be unchanged.
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