Japan IR Applications Delayed to Fall 2021?

Some gambling industry professionals predicted that the building of Integrated Resorts (IRs) in Japan would hit another obstacle and would be further delayed. Their hunch turned out to be accurate, as Kyodo News reported that the government would push the application process for at least nine months.

The original idea was to start the procedure in January 2021. The applicants would have seven months to apply to become a company that would oversee and run the casino business inside an IR. Since three IRs are planned, three companies are supposed to be chosen sometime during 2021. However, it seems that we wouldn’t be able to witness these results next year, as there’s a possibility that the application process wouldn’t start before fall 2021.

According to Kyodo News, this decision has been made as both operators and local governments failed to meet the deadline and fell behind the selection process. Japanese officials didn’t think that the process would be completed during the original window, resulting in another delay.

Chinese Lottery Scandal

One of the main reasons why the application process was postponed is due to the confusion created after the scandal involving a Chinese lottery company 500.com and a Japanese politician Tsukasa Akimoto. He allegedly accepted a bribe from 500.com to help it improve its odds in the bidding process.

Japan already struggled with a general stigma around gambling, meaning this scandal further resulted in negative views among the Japanese people, especially in Yokohama. In fact, the residents of Tokyo tried several times to put a stop to Yokohama’s bid to get an IR. One of them was even trying to recall the mayor.

Nagasaki prefecture was already expected to cause delays, and its assembly predicted that the delay would be anywhere from six to twelve months. In fact, the prefecture put its RFP (request for proposal) on hold after Shizo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, decided to resign his post due to health issues.

Covid-19 Makes Big Impact

The entire gambling industry suffered due to the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic, which also happened with Japan. The central government now needs more time to prepare additional health and safety requirements that would be implemented in their IR basic policy. As long as this process isn’t final, operators, cities, and prefectures would not be able to make their final bids as well.

If no delays were in place, the fastest we could see an IR open its doors in Japan was 2025. When all systems are good to go, it would take approximately five years to finalize the licensing process, build the property, and make it functional for visitors. Osaka was hoping to open an IR by the 2025 World Expo, but that doesn’t seem like a realistic expectation at the moment. There are many obstacles at the moment that prevent an opening.

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