Japan’s central government is unlikely to push back the timeframe for accepting proposals from candidate locations and their operator partners to develop the nation’s first integrated resorts, despite growing concerns over feasibility amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The issue of Japan’s ever-tightening timeline is raised in a new research paper published by consultancy firm Global Market Advisors on Monday, which notes that a delay in issuing the government’s Fundamental Policy by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism – originally planned for earlier this year – means operators are now being asked to commit to the market without knowing the full set of rules to be implemented.
Despite this, Japan’s timeline to accept proposals, currently scheduled for 4 January to 30 July 2021, is unlikely to move.
“One of the main reasons for this is that the further this date gets pushed back, it is less likely that the integrated resort champion, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will be spearheading the project,” GMA said.
“With public opinion still not in favor of IR implementation, as the public has not been appropriately educated on the subject through a targeted education campaign that highlights the IRs, there is still a bill in the Diet that would abolish the IR policy entirely.
“The current session, set to expire in June, would also have to take up the change in schedule should there be a desire to push back dates. Bringing up the timeline during this session could open up Pandora’s box on the entire IR debate.”
GMA said it is vital operators have time to fully process the Fundamental Policy in order to understand whether Japan will be a market in which they can succeed. However, that may be easier for operators targeting locations such as Yokohama and Nagasaki, which have delayed their own RFP processes, than Osaka and Wakayama who have already launched theirs.
“One would hope that operators would be given the chance to fully understand the Fundamental Policy prior to the full submission of their plans,” GMA observed. “Every operator that submits a business plan as part of an RFP process today technically should have a disclaimer to the effect of, ‘This submission is based on current conditions and may materially change based on the Fundamental Policy that is yet to be realized’.”
While the potential for operators to start withdrawing from the market represents a worst case scenario for the Abe government, GMA said any adjustment to the overall timeline “will be minimal as the Central Government continues to push forward with its timeline of 2021 for the submission by prefectures.
“However, a delay in the Fundamental Policy beyond July 2020 could potentially cause an adjustment of three to six months in the timeline. For all intents and purposes, this would allow for a more transparent process that balances potential operators’ desire to understand the full market opportunity and be able to put forward business plans that make sense for the market once the regulatory structure has been crafted.”