Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki is expected to announce on Friday that Hokkaido will not pursue a bid to develop an integrated resort on Japan’s northernmost island, throwing the plans of multiple international operators into disarray.
According to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Suzuki has decided to pass due to a wide disparity of opinions over an IR bid, even within Hokkaido’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Inside Asian Gaming was also informed by sources on Thursday that Hokkaido’s IR plans would be called off due to issues of unity within the LDP.
The party did not participate in the work to gather opinions on 27 November and the meeting of directors for the IR Review Committee on 28 November was canceled.
In response to this, the Governor stated, “We have not given a final conclusion. We want to consider our response carefully.”
However, it is expected he will clarify his intentions at a general questions session at the Hokkaido assembly on Friday.
The news will come as a crushing blow to the likes of US tribal gaming companies Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment and Rush Street Japan, who had both put all their Japan eggs into Hokkaido’s basket, as well as Hard Rock International – another company to have established an office in Hokkaido. It remains to be seen whether the trio express interest in another regional location instead or withdraw from Japan altogether.
The decision also comes just two weeks out from the 1st Japan IR Expo in Hokkaido, due to be held at AXES Sapporo on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 December 2019 and attended by five international IR operators.
Hokkaido had been considering an IR bid with Tomakomai city as the priority candidate area. However, a recent questionnaire of Hokkaido residents showed there was widespread concern toward development of an IR. It was recently reported that an environmental assessment could take up to three years.
The city council of Tomakomai approved a supplementary budget of JPY18 million to cover the costs of the environmental assessment at an extraordinary meeting in October.