A U-turn for Caesars
In 2019, Caesars Entertainment announced that it had decided not to pursue a license for an integrated resort (IR) in Japan, opting to focus on the closure of its $17.8bn merger with Eldorado Resorts instead. With that merger now completed, Caesars has now announced that it does intend to enter Japan’s casino market after all.
one of the most experienced IR development and management teams in the world”
Caesars has partnered with Canadian private equity firm Clairvest Neem Ventures (CNV) to develop a resort in the prefecture of Wakayama. In a statement confirming the news on Wednesday, Caesars described Clairvest as “one of the most experienced IR development and management teams in the world.”
The Wakayama government has already backed CNV’s $4.3bn IR plan, which would see the firm developing the resort on a group of artificial islands called Marina City. Commenting this week, Caesars chief executive Tom Reeg said: “We believe our experience blends perfectly with CNV’s and look forward to creating something special with them for the Kansai region.”
Big plans in Wakayama
Before Clairvest and Caesars can develop their casino resort, Wakayama will have to win one of the three licenses on offer in Japan. Only three locations are now vying for those permits, namely Wakayama, Nagasaki, and Osaka. Yokohama recently dropped out of the competition after an IR opponent won the local mayoral election.
With its chosen operator now decided, Wakayama must apply to the national government for the right to host an IR. Officials have confirmed that the prefecture intends to apply by April 28, 2022. Residents may still have a long wait before they can use the casino, however. Clairvest has set an opening date of Autumn 2027.
The private equity company announced the blueprint for its casino resort after winning the bid in June this year. The IR will follow a theme of “the country of woods and water.” In addition to a casino, it will include a hotel with 2,700 rooms, conference space with capacity for 6,000 attendees, an esports arena, and amusement attractions.
Who else has IR hopes?
Like Wakayama, Osaka and Nagasaki have both confirmed which operators will develop and operate their IR projects.
An MGM Resorts-led consortium is the only bidder to develop and operate a casino in Osaka. In July, the US gambling giant announced its plans for the ¥1tn ($9.08bn) integrated resort. If Osaka wins a license, the development will go ahead on the man-made Yumeshima Island. Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura expects the process to begin in 2023.
a 30-hectare site at Huis Ten Bosch in Sesebo City
Meanwhile, Nagasaki officials have selected Casinos Austria to develop and run their IR. The Austrian casino operator plans to develop a casino on a 30-hectare site at Huis Ten Bosch in Sesebo City. Casinos Austria beat a Mohegan Sun-Oshidori International consortium and Parkview Group in the bidding process.
Although there are now the same number of casino licenses on offer as locations vying for them, it is not certain that each will receive one. Attitudes towards the casino plans are shifting in Japan. Additionally, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has recently backed anti-casino candidates in several regions to help boost his popularity.