Japan Pushes Back Casino Process Citing Scandal and COVID-19
The central government of Japan has pushed back the deadline for the casino bidding process blaming COVID-19 and recent scandals as the issue.
In Japan, the central government has decided to push back a deadline of July 2021 for the casino resort process. For quite some time, the country has been preparing to create new integrated resort casinos and the process has continued to be ongoing and delayed. The application process is delayed partly due to COVID-19 and also due to recent bribery scandals involving the process.
Changing the Deadline
An announcement is coming today regarding the issues and the application process. The COVID-19 pandemic has of course delayed the process as people cannot meet as they normally would due to possible exposure to the virus.
Initially, Japan has three licenses up for grabs involving three integrated resorts, all of which can offer casino gaming. Applications for the licensing was due by July 2021. Cities interested in hosting the venues were to find partners in operators and developers. Plans on what they would offer were to be provided to the government for review.
The larger cities of Japan, Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama, have shown interest. Wakayama and Nagasaki have also shown they would like to be considered a host area. However, details can be harder to hammer out if you cannot meet to discuss what you would like to bring to the table as part of the licensing process, hence the delay.
Integrated resorts are extremely popular in Asia and for Japan, top operators are interested in the market. Casino gaming has never been an option here, so player appetite will be hungry. IRs will do well, offering casino gaming, hotel stays, entertainment venues and more. By being a part of the new industry, operators stand to gain a nice return on their investment.
Right now, it looks like applications will be accepted through the Fall of next year. Plans were to be submitted from January 2021 to July.
While the COVID-19 delay is normal, a bribery scandal is not. In Japan, House of Representatives lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto has been accused of taking bribes in return for licensing in the new market. In December of last year, Akimoto was arrested for reportedly taking bribes from 500.com, a sports lottery firm of China that was interested in building a casino in the county.
Akimoto denied he did anything wrong and was released on bail in February. However, he was arrested again in August after being accused of witness tampering. It was reported that Akimoto asked acquaintances to provide money to 500.com former advisors so they would provide false testimony to the court regarding the bribery case.
The result of the bribery charges and the full on scandal is yet another reason why the application process may be delayed. Once the licensing process was brought under questioning due to the case, the Las Vegas Sands decided to drop out of the race as a potential operator. The Sands is a huge company based in the US that would be brought big business to Japan.
If they are willing to back out due to the case, then Japan may lose other big operator interest as well. This would be a big blow to the industry that hasn’t even gotten started yet. The bad publicity around the application process is not helping Japan get started in this new venture. The government may want more time to try and clean up the bribery mess.
It was expected that the new casinos in Japan would open by 2025. However, with the delay in the application process by a few months, it might be closer to the end of 2025 or even into 2026 before any casinos would see construction completed and opened for business.