Mohegan Gaming Mulls Japan Choices After Hokkaido Departs Integrated Resort Competition

Posted on: December 9, 2019, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: December 8, 2019, 06:21h.

Last month, officials in the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido said they were dropping out of the competition to land one of the country’s first three integrated resort licenses. That’s news that’s prompting at least one of the operators that was eyeing that area to reconsider its options in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Mohegan Gaming has decisions to make in Japan following Hokkaido’s departure from the casino competition. (Image: AGB Nippon)

Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE), the casino gaming business of Connecticut’s Mohegan tribe, said it will consider its options in Japan after Governor Naomichi Suzuki said Hokkaido won’t pursue an integrated resort because of environmental concerns.

The news is a blow to MGE, which in October opened an office in the city of Tomakomai in Hokkaido, expressing a sign of commitment to the region. Hard Rock International and Rush Street Japan are among the other operators interested in Hokkaido, but those companies haven’t yet commented on their plans in the country following Suzuki’s decision to pull the prefecture out of the gaming property race.

A couple of weeks before MGE opened its office in the prefecture, Rush Street appointed architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and landscape architecture and design company Takano Landscape Planning (TLP) as designers for its integrated resort plans there.

Importantly, it reiterates the real estate developer’s strong focus on environmental sustainability and its commitment to the design and creation of an IR that is complimentary to the beauty and nature of Hokkaido,” said Rush Street in a statement.

Hard Rock and MGE are vying against each other to procure rights to open an integrated resort on at the site of the shuttered Hellenikon International Airport in Greece.

Evaluating Options

Hokkaido was slated to hold an integrated resort convention this week, but those plans were scuttled last week. Hard Rock, MGE, Rush Street and Melco Resorts, among other gaming companies, were expected to attend.

MGE said it respects Suzuki’s decision to pull Hokkaido out of the Japan casino competition and that it remains committed to the region.

We will continue to elevate the global integrated resort concept in Northern Asia via our Inspire development in South Korea, and we remain committed to the broader region,” said the operator.

Recently, Mohegan Gaming CEO Mario Kontomerkos told the Korea Times that the Inspire resort in Incheon, near the South Korean capital of Seoul, should have its first phase opened by early 2022.

Other Options

It is believed that Japanese policymakers won’t start fielding proposals from cities looking to be homes to gaming properties until early 2021, and the decision-making process could extend until the middle of that year.

Even with that lengthy time horizon, Suzuki said Hokkaido couldn’t make the relevant environmental considerations to ensure a gaming property would not be disruptive to local, rare animals and plants in a timely fashion.

Any of the companies previously considering Hokkaido could mull entry into other areas of Japan. But they’d face rivals with deeper pockets and, likely, much higher construction costs. MGE previously estimated its Inspire Entertainment Resort Hokkaido would cost $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion.

That’s nowhere close to the floor of $10 billion some analysts believe operators will spend to build Japanese integrated resorts. As just one example, Las Vegas Sands believes it could spend $10 billion to $12 billion to put a gaming property in Tokyo or Yokohama.