Japanese pachinko operator Okura Holdings is expanding its business into horse training.
In what can only be described as a unique initiative to diversify its interests, Okura revealed on Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with Ichikura Limited – a company controlled by Okura’s CEO and controlling shareholder Katsuya Yamamoto – to purchase two equestrian horses for a total of JPY212.8 million (US$2 million).
It also plans to commence operation of a horse training facility by the end of this month with the goal of raising further awareness of the new business venture by competing in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Outlining the reasons for the move into horse training, Okura said it was “expanding and diversifying its scope of business into competition horse training in light of the continued decline of the pachinko industry.
“In view of continuous interest in horse racing and increasing interest in other forms of equestrian activities in Japan, the Group considers there is demand for competition horse training in Japan and Asia.
“In addition, Mr Satoshi Maeda, who is the marketing supervisor and a member of the Group’s senior management, has been an active equestrian for more than 10 years and has accumulated an abundance of knowledge and connections in horse training.
“Considering the horses are well accoladed, having participated in European and international competitions, the Directors are of the view that by purchasing the horses and sponsoring them to participate in the international competitions, including potentially the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Group will be able to raise public and professional awareness in the Group’s new business venture in horse training.
“The horses will serve as an icon and ambassador of the Group’s new business and potentially help the group break into a high entry barrier industry that is reputation-based, both nationally and internationally.”
Okura, which operates 17 pachinko halls in Japan, recently announced a 6.7% decline in gross pay-ins at its parlors to around JPY17.71 billion and 7.5% decline in revenue to JPY4.18 billion (US$38.5 million) due to tightening regulations. The company said the regulations have limited the gaming element of pachinko and pachislot machines, reducing their attractiveness and negatively impacting customer traffic.