Did you know that Japan has no government-approved standalone casinos at the moment? But there have been repeated attempts to legalize casinos in the past years.
In December 2016, the Parliament passed a law known as the Integrated Resort Promotion Law, which states that casino gambling will be permitted in the country, but only in an Integrated Resort (IR).
Fast forward to July 2018, the IR Maintenance Law was passed, which regulates the contents of resort facilities and their development. More importantly, it established guidelines for all casino-related businesses. Lawmakers also limited the number of IRs in Japan, with only three allowed to operate.
But what exactly is an Integrated Resort and how beneficial are they to Japan, among other countries? Read on as we tackle more of what you should know about IRs and their development in Japan!
What is a Casino-Based Integrated Resort?
Before talking about casino-based integrated resorts, let’s first define with an integrated resort is.
An IR includes accommodations and tourist attractions. Think of it as an “all-in-one” hotel for travelers! For instance, an IR can include not just accommodation, but theaters, cinemas, restaurants, shopping malls, and more, including casinos. This means that there are no stand-alone gaming facilities.
All these premises would feature gambling and non-gambling activities, thus attracting a wider target audience, including tourists, businessmen, and locals.
While the name integrated casino became popular in the early 2010s, its concept began years before. An IR would have three features, which are: Integration, scale, and mass market.
Technically, the first integrated resort was built in 1989, the Wynn’s Mirage in Las Vegas. The luxury hotel and casino was the first of its kind and paved the way to change how the world saw entertainment. But because Integrated Resorts was primarily used in Singapore back then, it’s said that the first IR wasn’t created until the 2010s. By that time, Singapore was constructing Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa.
Fast forward a few years, when the term Integrated Resorts was adopted worldwide, becoming global.
How Beneficial These Resorts Will Be to the Japanese Economy
One of the core features that characterize an IR is scalability. They are extensive in scale in terms of size and economical contribution. For instance, Marina Bay Sands located in Macau has over 2,500 rooms and is estimated to be worth almost US$6 billion.
Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore is also an excellent example of scalability and great economic contribution. Integrated Resort development has been proven to show potential in providing significant benefits for all parties, including the government, companies, and individuals visiting the IR itself.
This goes especially for casinos, which are usually considered the economic lifeblood of entertainment facilities. It has helped achieve economic maturation, such as better employment conditions, augmented tax revenue for governments, and improved local retail sales, among others.
These are just some of the reasons why Japan is slowly being open to the idea of IRs. Prior to Japan, numerous countries proactively promoted IRs, and there are over 5,000 of them around the world. The global market size of IRs alone is worth almost 100 billion dollars, making it an enormous market comparable to other notable industries like the world robotics market and Japan’s EC Market.
The Casino Groups Bidding to Open Integrated Resort Casinos
Japan’s central government set a period to receive IR proposals from January to July 2021. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the world, with public agencies devoting more of their time and financial resources to fighting the worldwide issue. As such, the submission period was postponed, and the deadline was moved from October 2021 to April 2022.
One notable bidding comes from MGM Resorts International, who submitted a proposed Japan IR plan that is said to generate more revenue compared to other IRs in Asia. Moreover, there’s the potential of it incurring a tax revenue of a whopping $1.5 billion annually. It is said that the IR will be built in Osaka and will be the most expensive IR built in the continent, costing over $9 billion and with 15,000 people to be employed for the construction of the 770,000-square-meter facility.
Currently, the company is waiting to be given the green light for its proposal, though it’s believed it will open between 2028 to 2030. In the meantime, the online casino industry in Japan is gaining momentum and providing a full range of recommended online casino ( オンカジ おすすめ ) games for Japanese players. For example: Slots, Baccarat, Blackjack, Roulette and Poker games.
While it’s great that Japan is now slowly becoming open to IRs, some experts have seen this as a squandered opportunity. That’s because Japan is a beautiful country known for beautiful design esthetics, fascinating culture, and exquisite dining that attract a ton of tourists yearly. If IRs were developed at a similar time as other countries like Singapore, the country could have taken advantage of the huge revenue and booming economic situation from such attractions.
Japan Cities Welcoming the Development of Integrated Resort Casinos
Many of Japan’s residents are generally in favor of IRs, particularly those from the Osaka prefecture. This is likely because the city is quite large and offers excellent access for international tourists. As mentioned, MGM Resorts International’s proposal plans to build an IR in Osaka!
However, some cities are against the construction of IRs, such as Yokohama. Melco Resorts and Entertainment prepared a proposal that planned to build an IR in Yokohama. However, numerous local residents of the city were against it. In August 2021, residents elected a mayor who was against IR and announced that the city will halt all plans for IR construction. Because of this Melco closed its office in the region.
Other notable areas are welcoming the development of IRs though.
Nagasaki Prefecture had seven contenders who were interested in operating casinos in the area. This included Casinos Austria, Current Corp and Get Nice Holdings, Pixel Companyz with Groupe Partouche, and more.
By the end of August 2021, Nagasaki signed an initial agreement with Casinos Austria, with most residents supporting it. The goal is to integrate the future IR with Huis Ten Bosch, an existing resort and theme park recreating a Dutch Town. This is a wise decision as it’s close to South Korea and China, and it attracts numerous international tourists.
Another area welcoming IR development is the Wakayama Prefecture, which also selected an operator at the same time Nagasaki did. They signed with Clairvest Need Ventures with the plan of building an IR on Marina City’s artificial island. In general, local residents support the IR project as it can attract more tourists and increase employment rates. Moreover, there may be a possibility of offering more health and wellness excursions like guided tours to Wakayama’s temple settlement, Mount Kaya.
With all these prefectures showing promise when it comes to IR development, we’re hoping to see Japan having three IRs operating by 2028 to 2030! That said, companies are still waiting for the green light and this has put Japan at a disadvantage, as stated above. The country still has a long way to go, but we are hopeful to see the development of IRs begin in the near future.
Should You Go to an Integrated Resort Casino?
Short answer: YES! It’s worth checking into and spending your vacation in an integrated resort with a casino.
Surprisingly, these types of resorts have everything for any group of travelers, may you be going solo for business or pleasure, with your partner, or friends, or even as a family with children. There is something for everyone, with the luxury amenities made to entertain locals and tourists alike.
In fact, some businessmen and travelers choose to live in an integrated resort for the long term. Living in an integrated resort means that you will get everything you need for luxury living without having to go out of your “home.” Do whatever you want and find the facility or amenity you want or need for the day, whether it’s for work or pleasure.
Wrapping It Up
Integrated resorts aren’t only fun facilities locals and tourists can visit. It’s an economical advantage to governments. Japan still has a long way to go before they begin IR development and set their first IR up in Osaka, but better late than never!
We are hopeful to see some of the best IRs in the country, starting with the one from Osaka to come by 2030.
But this begs people to wonder if Japan will be able to pull itself out of the hole that it dug in terms of IR development. With all the postponements, laws, and cities rejecting IRs, it may sound impossible. However, Japan still shows major promise, the process will just require a major rethink.
Commentators and experts agree that the government should stop using the pandemic as an excuse for the world to go back to a new normal. It’s time to learn from the mistakes made and rewrite the rules to make IRs an attractive economic proposition for them and the international community.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts and excitement for Japan’s first integrated resort!