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Japan – Prefectures offer mixed response to Japan’s delay to IR timeline

By - 12 October 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted Japan’s central government to delay the application period for local governments wanting to be in the race for one of three Japanese Integrated Resort casinos by nine months.

The initial application period from January to July 2021 has been replaced with a new window from October 1 2021 to 28 April 2022, putting to end any hope that casinos could be operational by 2025.

The government’s Basic Policy won’t be finalised until public consultation has been completed on November 7. The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) confirmed the new consultation period last week.The Policy will now include sections on infectious disease countermeasures and improved efforts to counter problem gambling.
Only Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama and Nagasaki have confirmed they will be involved in the race for an IR.

Whilst the Mayor of Osaka and the Governor Osaka Prefecture welcomed the move, other leaders expressed their disappointment. Osaka had wanted to debut its casinos prior to the World Expo but Mayor Ichiro Matsui of Osaka said he welcomed the delay with gratitude. Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura of Osaka Prefecture described it as a ‘reasonable decision.’

Others such as Wakayama’s Governor, Yoshinobu Nisaka, felt ‘deep dissatisfaction’ at the delay.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said: “We have conducted additional hearings with operators who submitted a proposal and properly considered them. We will work hard to gain residents’ understanding as we move forward with realizing an IR. The things you cherish the most are those you worked the hardest to achieve.”
A local election on August 29 2021 could confuse matters there.

Governor Nakamura of Nagasaki Prefecture said: “We are currently preparing for the open recruitment and selection of IR companies. Based on the details of this change, we will steadily proceed with preparations for the area certification application while listening to the opinions of the operators.”

Joji Kokuryo, of Bay City Ventures, said: “The additions to the IR Basic Policy that will require due procedure to be finalised. A delay or rather an extension of the process time line is already in the making. 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.”

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