Bally’s Launches Late Bid for Casino Resort in Fukuoka, Japan

  • Bally’s has declared an eleventh-hour interest in developing and running an IR in Fukuoka
  • Fukuoka has not yet announced its interest in becoming a location for one of Japan’s first IRs
  • Bally’s said lawmakers might “choose to reopen the bidding process,” after initial proposals
  • Fukuoka is a strong candidate for selection should lawmakers find flaws in other options
Fukuoka, Japan
Bally’s has left it late to enter the race for a Japan IR license, submitting an ambitious plan for a casino resort in the city of Fukuoka (pictured above). [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Throwing its hat into the ring

With the clock running down towards the April 28 deadline for the selection of an integrated resort (IR) in Japan, Bally’s Corporation has dramatically thrown its hat into the ring.

intention to build and operate a JPY480bn (US$3.94bn) IR

The US casino business has revealed its ambitious intention to build and operate a JPY480bn (US$3.94bn) IR in Fukuoka. Company execs revealed the news during a Wednesday press conference at Hotel Okura Fukuoka, reports Inside Asian Gaming.

Bally’s bolt-from-the-blue entry comes despite Fukuoka not declaring its interest in becoming a location for one of Japan’s first IRs. In addition, the city’s Mayor, Soichiro Takashima, recently said he had no interest in developing a casino in the city on the northern tip of Japan’s Kyushu Island.

Bally’s nevertheless said on Wednesday it has submitted a basic plan and relevant documents to Takashima, the chairman of the Kyushu Economic Federation, and the chairman of the Kyushu IR Promotion Council, in the hope it will win a license and open its IR in 2028.

The casino company estimates the IR would attract 4.6 million visitors per year, and make annual sales of JPY249.5bn (US$2.05 bn).

Upping the Japan IR ante

By the end of April, it’s expected Nagasaki, Osaka and Wakayama will all submit proposals for the three licenses the central Japanese government has the right to issue.

A group that includes MGM Resorts International is likley to win in Osaka as the sole bidder. Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment is part of a consortium seeking to bring an integrated resort to Wakayama. Nagasaki officials have chosen Casinos Austria to develop and operate their offering.

Bally’s, however, has identified and acted on a possible uncertainty, or potential flexibility, among Japanese lawmakers. The Rhode Island-based firm believes the decision makers might decide to award more than three gaming permits. Or, if lawmakers find one of the three cities not attractive enough for an IR, Fukuoka would be an ideal replacement.

According to GGR Asia, Bally’s vice president of corporate development, Christopher Jewett, backed up both possibilities. At Wednesday’s press conference, he said the national government might “choose to reopen the bidding process,” after it weighs up the initial round of proposals.

“If this happens, Fukuoka has the potential to position itself as a strong candidate for selection,” Jewett added.

Backing needed for success

Many industry experts have long held to the view that Fukuoka — Japan’s sixth largest city with a high population and excellent land, sea and air connectivity — is better placed for an IR than Nagasaki.

business groups in Kyushu and other local governments are supporting Nagasaki’s IR bid

Despite this, business groups in Kyushu and other local governments are supporting Nagasaki’s IR bid, as is the Kyushu IR Promotion Council. More tellingly, all the prefecture governors of Kyushu, and the governor of Yamaguchi, belong to the Council.

Jewett is well aware of this, stating it was apparent that no proposal would be possible “without the strong support of the many constituents in the community.”

According to Japanese news site NetIB-News, Bally’s has named National Uminonakamichi Seaside Park as the proposed location of its IR.