Japan is postponing the start of its integrated resort submission period until next fall.
The Japan Tourism Agency in Tokyo announced today that the central government is delaying its IR time line. The submission period was set to run January 4, 2021, through July 30, 2021. The new deadline is April 28, 2022. The agency did not give a start date.
The Tourism Agency said impacts from COVID-19 are the primary reason for the pushback. Postponing the IR schedule might also ease concerns regarding last year’s arrest of Tsukasa Akimoto, a former lawmaker in the Liberal Democratic Party who oversaw the initiative that legalized casinos in Japan. Akimoto allegedly accepted ¥3 million ($28,400 USD) in bribes from a Chinese company interested in joining a casino consortium in Japan.
Japan has authorized three IR casino properties. Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama, and Nagasaki are all jockeying to win one of the gaming rights.
Japan recently saw a spike in new coronavirus cases, with new infections topping 1,000 a day in late July and early August. The country has nearly 87,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,617 deaths.
Odds Favored Delay
Gaming industry analysts observing Japan’s efforts to venture into legalized commercial gambling say the delay announcement was expected.
“The Japanese government has given out substantial financial support to battle the effects of COVID-19, and priority is now on readjusting budgets and economic recovery,” said Joji Kokuryo of Bay City Ventures to Casino.org.
There are also the additions to the IR Basic Policy that will require due procedure to be finalized. A delay or rather an extension of the process time line is already in the making,” Kokuryo added.
Bay City is a Tokyo-based company that specializes in Asian gaming industries.
Las Vegas Sands, once the front-runner for one of the gaming licenses, bowed out of the Japan IR race in May. MGM Resorts said recently it’s seeking a smaller investment role in its Osaka dreams, and Wynn Resorts closed its Yokohama office in August.
“With a delay in Japan’s national time line, international travel limitations, and the optics of having a Japan office when current markets are in the midst of recovering from closures, some gaming operators may decide that they do not require a full-fledged Japan office for the time being,” Kokuryo explained.
Integrated resorts were pushed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who viewed the casino complexes as a way to bolster tourism and tax revenue. Abe’s LDP lawmakers backed his wishes, and legalized commercial gambling for three destinations.
Abe’s tenure ended last month, the Prime Minister stepping down because of health reasons. His successor — Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga — was Abe’s right-hand man and is expected to continue the IR mission.
Suga has retained much of Abe’s last cabinet, including Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kazuyoshi Akaba. He has been at the forefront of Japan progressing its Basic Policy on commercial gambling.