Japan’s IR process appears to move forward in fits and starts, but there were two noteworthy events to emerge at the end of the week that advance the slow process towards the country's first casinos.
First, Nagasaki announced that it had narrowed the field in its search for a partner to three candidates from five. While Osaka, which started as a favourite and ended with just one prospective partner, is throwing the net wider in the hope of attracting another suitor.
The Nagasaki Prefectural Government, which is seen as having the best managed bid in Japan’s IR development race said it has chosen Casinos Austria, Oshidori Group and NIKI Chau Fwu.
That means that Current Group and One Kyushi are out of contention for the site.
Hong Kong-listed Oshidori recently teamed with Mohegan Sun to strengthen its chances, with the two saying that they intend to build a world class resort in Sasebo City.
Commenting on the choice of bidders, Nagasaki Governor Hodo Nakamura said that each group had been assessed for their concepts, as well as operational track records and financial capacity.
“The three finalists will now be asked to provide a much more detailed proposal and we plan to select our operator partner this summer.”
“It is also important to thank all of the five applicants for their interest and devotion to the development of an IR in Nagasaki. We are grateful for the time and effort they all have put into their initial proposals," he said.
Nagasaki expects to choose its partner in the summer or autumn of this year with final approval in spring of 2022. If all goes to plan, it may break ground in 2023, with the IR looking to open by the mid to late 2020s, years behind the original plans for Japan’s casino rollout.
Osaka said it had finalized an "implementation policy" that summarizes the conditions required of integrated resort (IR) operators. As a result, it will now accept further bids up until April 6th.
“The conditions, including the selection schedule, have changed significantly, and additional public offerings will be made from the perspective of fairness,” it said.
Osaka started this process as one of the most sought after locations for international operators with major names such as Genting Singapore; Las Vegas Sands; Melco Resorts and Entertainment and Wynn Resorts joining MGM.
However, the late entrance of Yokohama into the race in 2019 saw Osaka’s suitors swiftly turn their attention to the bigger metropolis.
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