Las Vegas Sands Could Reenter Japan Integrated Resort Casino Race

Posted on: July 9, 2020, 07:35h. 

Last updated on: July 9, 2020, 11:34h.

Japan’s forthcoming commercial gaming industry was dealt a serious blow when Las Vegas Sands -– considered the world’s preeminent casino operator -– announced in May it would no longer be making a bid for one of the three integrated resort (IR) licenses.

Japan casino Sands Sheldon Adelson
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson might not be completely out of the Japanese casino discussion. (Image: Andrew Harnik/

Joji Kokuryo, managing director of Bay City Ventures, says Sands could reenter the bidding race should the Japanese government issue favorable regulations that make the market attractive. LVS founder, chairman, and CEO Sheldon Adelson said in May that Japan’s “framework around the development of an IR has made our goals there unreachable.”

But Kokuryo isn’t convinced the billionaire won’t reconsider.

Every IR operator has their own plans, with unique financial formulas and different levels of pure optimism. If any were to leave Japan, it would be due to their own accumulative business outlook and evaluation of the market,” explained Kokuryo.

Kokuryo serves as an advisor to the Gaming Standards of Japan and has worked in leading Asian IR markets, including Macau and the Philippines’ Entertainment City in Manila.

“If it makes business sense, Sands will for sure be back. They did not leave Japan forever,” he concluded.

RFP Pushbacks

COVID-19 has greatly disrupted each interested casino operator’s ability to form local consortiums in its targeted prefecture and city. With travel halted, international firms have largely been limited to remote business dealings.

As a result, Osaka, Wakayama, and Yokohama have all extended their timelines in choosing a winning casino project. The decisions are to allow the casino consortiums additional time to formalize their applications.

Osaka extended its request for proposal (RFP) deadline by six months, the new target being early 2021. Wakayama wants submissions by October 19, 2020, and Yokohama says it will announce an RFP deadline after the federal government issues its finalized IR Basic Policy.

Nagasaki, the fourth and only other prefecture that has publicly announced its IR candidacy, says it hopes to select a casino partner sometime this winter.

Staying Course

Though the prefectures are extending their bidding periods because of the coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s government has yet to announce any delay. The final version of the IR Basic Policy is due by July 26.

The country’s official bidding period — aka the time when prefectures can submit their casino schemes — is to run January 4, 2021, through July 30, 2021.

As of today, there are no changes to the current national time line and the local governments must act accordingly with their own schedules,” Kokuryo explained. “It is clear that candidate sites all have the July 2021 submission deadline in their minds in recent statements about their own time lines.”

Kokuryo says the federal government will be reluctant to alter its schedule, and will only do so if prefectures plead for additional time. The country’s economy has taken a hit from the coronavirus, and Japan sees the casinos as assets in its recovery.

“The main focus of the IR Implementation Act was to drive tourism numbers and investments for new development, while also bringing in a new form of tax revenue for the country and local municipalities,” he stated.