Major Gaming Firms Show Their Hands During Presentations at Hokkaido IR Showcase

Posted on: January 10, 2019, 03:52h. 

Last updated on: January 10, 2019, 03:59h.

Some of the world’s most prominent gaming brands took center stage at the Hokkaido IR Showcase on Wednesday, as developers tried to show why they should be the company that local government officials partner with to build an integrated resort in the region.

Hokkaido IR Showcase
Local dignitaries attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the Hokkaido IR Showcase in Sapporo. (Image: Inside Asian Gaming)

Among those providing detailed information about their plans for a potential resort in the area was Hard Rock International, which shared a proposal for a massive complex that would feature a number of amenities beyond just a casino.

Hard Rock All In on Hokkaido

In a presentation by Chairman Jim Allen, Hard Rock showed off a resort that would include more than 1,500 hotel rooms, cultural exhibits, a live concert arena, a wellness center, and approximately 200,000 square feet of retail space.

The scope of the presentation matches the company’s efforts to become the leading contender to join Hokkaido in a bid for one of the three integrated resort (IR) licenses available from the central Japanese government. Hard Rock has already become a partner of a local team in the J1 League, Japan’s top-tier soccer competition, and plans to sponsor an ice sculpture exhibit at the Sapporo Snow Festival in February.

But Hard Rock is hardly the only firm interested in developing a property on the northern Japanese island prefecture. Others to present their proposals during the Hokkaido IR Showcase included Caesars Entertainment, Melco Resorts, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, and SJM Holdings. According to a report by Inside Asian Gaming, the primary focus of most of the presentations was on the financial benefits that the region would see from a resort.

Hokkaido IR Prospects Uncertain

Not every major gaming brand made an appearance at the showcase, however. Both MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands skipped the Hokkaido event, likely a sign that they plan to direct their efforts elsewhere.

Those firms might be focusing their efforts on the most lucrative potential locations for an integrated resort: namely, Tokyo and Osaka. They may also have doubts over whether any resort will ultimately be built in Hokkaido at all, as public polling has shown strong resistance to casino gambling in the region, and there is concern that upcoming elections could result in anti-IR lawmakers taking power from the current governor, Harumi Takahashi, who has supported bringing a resort to the prefecture.

Locals Make Their Case for Resort

But Hokkaido is certainly not out of the running, and this week also saw one of the most likely locations for an IR in the region make its case.

Resutsu Village partnered with local tourism firm Kamori Kanko to present their plan for an integrated resort, one that would see a massive expansion of the existing Resutsu Resort Hotel and Convention Center in an effort to attract visitors with not only gambling, but also access to skiing and other traditional tourism activities.

Aside from casino gaming, which is only a small component in the overall scheme, our vision includes healthcare facilities, schools, commercial and retail precincts, multi-family homes and more tourism and entertainment venues, all in an environmentally-friendly manner,” Kamori Kanko President Hisatake Kamori said in a statement. “It will be a true ‘integrated resort’.”

But even if an IR is developed in Hokkaido, Resutsu may not be the leading contender in the region. In October, a panel of experts said that the port city of Tomakomai would be the best location in the area for a resort rather than Rusutsu or Kushiro City.