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Hokkaido delegation visit to US fuels "White IR" bids

City officials from Tomakomai, Hokkaido, undertook a tour of the United States from November 14th to the 23rd as part of follow-up efforts to the RFI process they had completed in September.

In a telephone interview with Asia Gaming Brief (AGB), an official of Tomakomai’s International Resort Strategy Office offered some details.

The tour involved meetings with all six US-based casino operators which had participated in the RFI process, and it encompassed visits to four separate cities.

Although the Tomakomai officials declined to name either the cities or the specific operators involved, AGB was able to confirm via other sources that Las Vegas, Orlando, and a city in Connecticut were on their itinerary, and that—through cross-checking our previous reporting—Caesars, Hard Rock, Rush Street Gaming, and Foxwoods were likely among the six operators which hosted the delegation.

Caesars Entertainment confirmed that they did host the delegation while it was in Las Vegas, offering a statement to AGB that, “during these visits we showcase the wide variety of entertainment options available at our properties, as well as provide greater insight to some of the things that matter most to us, such as our responsible gaming programs, employee training and development, and environmental sustainability initiatives.”

For their part, the city officials in Tomakomai expressed satisfaction with their US tour, explaining that it helped them to understand the unique characteristics and visions of each of the operators who were seeking a partnership.

The Tomakomai officials anticipate issuing a fresh “IR Master Plan” next March which will draw upon ideas presented by the international operators, as well as referencing the “Hokkaido White IR Initiative” published by the local business community earlier this year.

While the Tomakomai delegation was in the United States, reports emerged back home that tourism company Kamori Kanko and developer Niseko Alpine Developments were proposing a bid for an IR at Rusutsu village, a nearby location in Hokkaido.

The Tomakomai officials did not wish to make definitive statements about that potential rival bid, but they indicated that they would simply focus on developing their own proposals. They remain open to some form of IR cooperation with Rusutsu village, if that proves practical.

Tomakomai officials further suggested that they no longer expect that the Hokkaido prefectural government will attempt to unify the various local governments’ IR bids by the end of this year, as had previously been contemplated. It had been indicated at one point that Hokkaido Prefecture would select which local government IR bid to support this year, but with the national legislation still pending, that informal deadline will now be allowed to slip.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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