Japan moves forward with IR plans as COVID-19 struggles continue

Nagasaki, Japan just launched its initiative to attract casino partners as it looks to become one of the first areas to be awarded the rights to host an integrated resort (IR) in the country. It was the first to officially introduce its request for proposal (RFP) after delays caused by COVID-19, but other areas of the country are ready to get moving, as well. The progress is in anticipation of the Japanese Diet being able to introduce its final IR Basic Policy sometime later this year, but new issues caused by the coronavirus might lead to additional complications and schedule shifts.

Yokohama, according to local media outlet Kanagawa, is preparing to launch its RFP sometime before the end of this month. The outlet reports that it interviewed a number of people involved in the process and that the push to build momentum for its IR plans comes as the local city council rejected a petition to have a public vote held on the subject. Gambling opponents tried to block Yokohama’s efforts, collecting signatures on a petition that would force the issue to be addressed in a public forum, but both the mayor of Yokohama, Fumiko Hayashi, and the city council have determined that a public vote would be a waste of time.

In Tokyo, progress is being made, but where the city stands now in bidding for an IR is still unclear. Inside Asian Gaming points to a message by the head of Japan’s Countermeasures HQ, and member of the House of Representatives, Yukio Edano, who referenced “an IR bid by Tokyo after the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.” There hasn’t been an update on what is in the works in Tokyo and the executive’s comments came as part of a larger response to the refusal by Yokohama’s leadership to conduct the public vote. Edano asserted, “The mayor and the council are acting as if they might ignore this. Representative democracy is not a carte blanche mandate.”

Elsewhere in the country, it looks like Hokkaido is officially out of the running for an IR. There has been talk for more than a year about the prefecture possibly backing away and Hokkaido mayor Naomichi Suzuki confirmed this week that it’s withdrawing its interest. Lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto and Chinese gambling firm 500.com could be partially to blame, even if Suzuki hasn’t been completely behind the idea since it was first presented, since the bribery scandal that involved the disgraced politician had been centered on the prefecture.

It has taken longer for Japan to get everything in place for its IR market, in part, due to that bribery scandal. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a larger issue, with the government having to spend more time and resources figuring out how to keep the virus from spreading. It seemed like progress was being made and that the IR plans might be back on the right track, but a new COVID-19 outbreak might force delays once again.

There has been a steady rise of new coronavirus cases and deaths that has now continued for almost two straight months. In order to prevent the situation from getting worse, Japan is closing its borders and will not allow any non-resident foreigners to enter the country. Nationals outside the country looking to return home will need to show a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken no more than 72 hours before their re-entry. If they don’t have one, they will need to self-quarantine for three days at a facility designated by health officials.

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