As Japan deals with the coronavirus, its attention is pulled away from other matters, such as the progress of introducing integrated resorts (IR) after legislation was approved two years ago. Before any real momentum is seen, the country has to introduce the IR Basic Policy, which will dictate, among other things, how host locations and casinos have to operate. The Basic Policy has been delayed time and again, and cities considered to be top contenders to be approved for one of the first three IRs have been forced to follow suit. Yokohama is on this shortlist and has already announced several delays to its local program due to the lack of progress on the national level. While it typically has offered a new deadline for its framework, Yokohama is now essentially calling it quits, saying it will restart its program once Japan figures out what it wants.
This month should have been the month that Yokohama released its plans to the public after changing the deadline previously from June to July. The city, according to comments made by its mayor, Fumiko Hayashi, in a press conference yesterday, is now being forced to alter its schedule once again because of issues at the highest levels of Japan’s government, and will now have to wing it, waiting to see when the Basic Policy is introduced before it makes a move. This decision, and the delays, will make further alterations to Yokohama’s establishment of the request-for-proposal process, which will result in additional changes to the timeline down the road.
Hayashi said in her remarks, according to GGRAsia, “The city cannot make public its IR implementation policy, under conditions where the [national] government does not announce the basic policy. The city decided to postpone the announcement timing of the implementation policy scheduled for August. The city will keep watching carefully the [national] government initiatives. At this moment, the city has no knowledge about when the [national] government will announce the basic policy.” The mayor made it clear, though, that Yokohama fully intends on pushing forward with its plans to host one of the first three IRs.
It’s logical that Yokohama, Osaka, Nagasaki and the rest of the IR targets would have to wait to introduce their own plans. Initially, the Japanese Diet had a good idea of how it envisioned the country’s gambling scene developing and what it would take to get involved. However, because of COVID-19 and the impact the virus has had on the gaming industry worldwide, it may no longer be feasible to ask a casino operator to consider making a $10-billion investment in a nascent local industry.
With that in mind, many casino operators have decided to put any plans for entering the Japanese market on the back burner until the country figures out what it wants. Others have decided to step away completely, with no chance of trying to make a return in the early stages. There are still some, like Hard Rock International, that are holding onto their dreams, but, without a clear picture of what will be expected, no one can definitively say what they’ll be able to do.