Ahead of April 28 deadline

Wakayama's bid to host one of Japan's first IR rejected; only Osaka and Nagasaki in race now

Rendering for the rejected Wakayama project in Japan.
Reading time 2:32 min

Wakayama’s bid to host one of Japan’s first integrated casino resorts has now been rejected. The proposal was voted down by the Wakayama Prefectural Assembly, leaving only Osaka and Nagasaki in the race, with the prefectures expected to submit their respective bids to the government by an April 28 deadline.

While the Wakayama bid had the support of many prominent local politicians and of representatives in parliament, the Wakayama Prefectural Assembly rejected the proposal on a 22-18 vote on Wednesday. Most concerns were in regards to what some assembly members labeled a “sloppy” fund-raising plan, reports The Asahi Shimbun.

Parties were concerned about whether financing would come through for the proposed venue, a ¥470 billion ($3.7 billion) project in Wakayama Marina City, one of ten artificial islands in Wakaura Bay. The prefecture allegedly run into problems seeking the initial ¥470B investment, of which 70% would have been through loans, and 30% from investors.

“The prefectural assembly’s decision is regrettable, as a casino resort would be a catalyst for regional development,” Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka told reporters after the vote, according to The Japan Times. He further said the prefecture should try again if the government solicits more applications for a casino.

Under the proposed Wakayama plan, the prefectural government would have opened the IR around autumn 2027. The venue was expected to attract about 6.5 million visitors by fiscal year 2030, creating an economic ripple effect worth ¥350 billion ($2.7 billion) for the prefecture. 

Rendering for the Osaka proposed casino

The Credit Suisse Group was to lead a syndicate of banks and provide the loans, while as for the investors, Canada’s Clairvest Group would have provided 55% of the funds and become the main operator of the resort. US heavyweight Caesars Entertainment would have covered 5%.

“The fund-raising plan is vague and uncertain, so the central government won’t accept the project,” Kazumi Yoshii, a local assembly member of the LDP, said at the committee session, according to Times. He voted “no.”

Meanwhile, some committee members expressed concerns that a written commitment from the Credit Suisse Group on providing loans for the project had yet to be obtained, while others pointed out a low percentage of Japanese companies among the project’s participants.

The rejection deals a major blow to the central government’s casino ambitions, a plan set to revitalize local economies and drive tourism after the pandemic. While authorities were prepared to select up to three candidates for the casino resorts, thus far, only two seem to still remain in the race.

Rendering for the proposed Nagasaki resort

Among them is Nagasaki, with the prefectural assembly having formally approved a plan for an IR at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, in Sasebo. Casinos Austria International Japan Inc. heads the project, which has the strong backing of all seven Kyushu governors, reports Asahi Shimbun.

The resort is expected to open in 2027, and could draw up to 6.73 million people annually. The ¥438.3 billion ($3.4 billion) state-of-the-art casino would feature a gaming floor with 3,000 electronic gambling machines and 400 table games, while four hotels with more than 2,500 rooms are also planned.

Meanwhile, Osaka’s bid has both the support of Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura and Mayor Ichiro Matsui, as well as the prefectural and municipal government assemblies. The plan calls for the development of a casino resort on the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay, by around 2029, under an MGM Resorts International and Orix-led consortium.

The ¥1.8 trillion ($14 billion) project was approved by both the prefecture and city assemblies last month. If submitted, both the Osaka and Nagasaki bids will be reviewed by a central government committee of experts, in charge of examining the financial feasibility of the proposals.

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