An official from Japan’s Wakayama prefecture has told GGRAsia – in response to our enquiry – that the local authority is “negotiating” with fresh private-sector entities as potential partners for Wakayama’s tilt at hosting an integrated resort or “IR”, as large-scale tourism complexes with casinos are known in that country.
“We will not provide the name of the new operators and we are now negotiating with them. However, we do not know whether the operators are going to participate in the Wakayama RFP or not,” the representative said in an email, referring to the local government’s anticipated request-for-proposal (RFP) process.
A maximum of three IRs will be permitted nationally in a first phase of the country’s gaming market liberalisation. After selecting a private-sector partner, eligible local governments will then need to apply – during the first seven months of 2021 – to the national government for the right to have such a project.
The Wakayma prefectural government had previously noted to us that it aimed to launch in “late March or the beginning of April” an RFP to choose a private-sector partner for its IR effort.
A number of potential suitors for Wakayama (pictured) has already been identified. Privately-held casino junket backer Suncity Group a market leader in the Macau market; French gaming operator Groupe Lucien Barrière; and Philippine casino investor Bloomberry Resorts Corp, all presented their respective IR concepts for Wakayama at a local government-hosted symposium in August last year, the local-government representative noted to us.
“We are considering if those three companies can commit to the [IR] concept and it’s up to them to decide whether they will participate in the Wakayama RFP or not. No one will know the result until the end,” the representative noted to us in an emailed response to our enquiry.
The withdrawal of Hokkaido prefecture from the national race for an IR might present new opportunities for Wakayama and its upcoming RFP process, the representative noted to us. Hokkaido had previously been courted by a number of private-sector investors, although Wakayama did not give any commentary on whether any of those firms might now be in discussions with it.
The Wakayama government also gave us some more information on a gambling-harm mitigation initiative it had proposed for any local scheme. The “IR card”, would be issued to all Japanese nationals that might wish to gamble at a Wakayama resort.
Such local patrons would only be able to place wagers via the card, and would need to load it with a cash value, setting a maximum amount for the player’s betting budget, the prefectural government explained. The concept of the IR card was to “prevent over-betting”, and help reduce the number of local players that might potentially risk becoming pathological gamblers.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters