IR Official Reports Wakayama In Talk With Potential New Suitors

A Japanese Wakayama Prefecture official told GGRAsia that the local authority is “negotiating” with new private sector entities as prospective partners for Wakayama’s tilt to host an integrated resort or “IR,” as large-scale casino tourism complexes are known in that country.

Referring to the local government’s anticipated request-for-proposal (RFP) process, a representative said: “We will not provide the name of the new operators and we are now negotiating with them. However, we do not know whether the operators are going to participate in the Wakayama RFP or not.”

In a first step of the country’s gaming market liberalisation a limit of three IRs would be approved nationally. Upon choosing a private-sector partner, qualifying local governments will then need to apply to the national government for the right to have such a project, during the first seven months of 2021.

Previously, the Wakayma prefectural government had indicated to that it planned to launch an RFP to pick a private-sector partner for its IR initiative in “late March or the beginning of April.”

It has already identified a number of potential suitors for Wakayama. Private-held casino junket sponsor Suncity Company, a market leader on the Macau market; French gaming operator Groupe Lucien Barrière; and Philippine casino investor Bloomberry Resorts Corp, proposed their respective IR concepts for Wakayama at a local government-hosted symposium in August last year, the representative of the local government noted.

“We are considering if those three companies can commit to the [IR] concept and it’s up to them to decide whether they will participate in the Wakayama RFP or not. No one will know the result until the end,” the representative continued.

The exclusion of Hokkaido Prefecture from the national race for an IR could reveal new opportunities for Wakayama and its upcoming RFP process. Hokkaido had previously been courted by a number of private-sector investors, but Wakayama did not comment on whether any of those companies could now be in talks.

The Government of Wakayama also gave more detail about a gambling-harm reduction programme that it had suggested for any local scheme. The “IR card” would be distributed at a Wakayama resort to all Japanese nationals who might want to play.

These local patrons could only put wagers through the card, and would need to load it with a cash value, setting a maximum amount for the betting budget of the player, explained the prefectural government. The IR card idea was to “prevent over-betting” and help reduce the number of local players who could potentially risk becoming pathological players.