Hokkaido governor restates no Japan casino bid

Hokkaido governor restates no Japan casino bid

Naomichi Suzuki, the governor of Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture, reiterated on Thursday that his local authority is not going to seek in the current phase of market liberalisation, the right to host a casino complex, or integrated resort (IR) as such facilities are known in that country.

He made the statement during his regular briefing for the media.

There had been some commentary recently in Japan that Hokkaido might revisit its decision in the current phase, with the old industrial and port city of Tomakomai (pictured) mentioned as a favourite location, on the basis it would benefit from urban regeneration and tourism linked to the development of an integrated resort scheme there.

When the governor had first announced in November 2019, that Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost prefecture, would not be an IR candidate, he appeared to leave the door open, by specifically mentioning no involvement in the opening liberalisation phase.

An initial round of private-sector lobbying for an IR there – before the governor’s late-2019 ‘no’ – led to bribery allegations linked to people said to represent mainland China online company 500.com.

In October, two Japanese men were given suspended prison sentences by a Japanese court in relation to those allegations. In December, two other Japanese men were also given suspended sentences.

Tsukasa Akimoto – who had been a leading advocate of Japan’s IR policy, via a role as a Japanese lawmaker – has been accused of receiving bribes. He has denied the allegations. His case is still pending.

Up to three such venues will be permitted in Japan in a first opening-up phase, with local governments needing first to find a private-sector partner, and then second to apply to the national government.

The application phase at national level is due to start on October 1, and run until April 28, 2022.

It is unclear if Japan will launch a second phase for additional integrated resort licences and, if so, when will such a process take place.

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