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Las Vegas-based Caesars pitches IR design concepts to Tomakomai, Osaka

  • November 12, 2017
  • , Nikkei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment announced that it presented its business concepts for integrated resorts (IRs) in Tomakomai city, Hokkaido, and Osaka city, Osaka, in addition to gambling addiction prevention programs. Many perspective operators are rushing to pitch concepts to local governments ahead of the government’s development of a regulatory framework.


Jan Jones Blackhurst, Executive Vice President of Public Policy & Corporate Responsibility, shared her company’s concept during her visit to Japan. Japan legalized casinos last December and is now creating the implementation framework to be submitted to the Diet next year.


Caesars aims to acquire licenses to operate IRs in multiple regions. It announced on Nov.1 that it has appointed William Shen as managing director and representative officer of Caesars Entertainment Japan, who previously was in charge of Caesars’ operations in South Korea.


The American gaming corporation made a formal application in response to Tomakomai city’s open call for submission of proposals. Its proposal includes a layout and design concept that features fountains around a caldera volcano landscape surrounded by hotels, theaters, and conference centers. The surrounding buildings are designed to look like ice skaters gliding in a circle.


On the other hand, design concepts were communicated informally to Osaka. Placing emphasis on entertainment and health, a medical facility will be incorporated in the site plan to accommodate medical tourism. Inbound visitors are expected to make up most of the resort guests. “The resort will showcase Japanese technology and culture including robotics, animation, and cuisine,” explains a Caesars representative.


The expected level of investment to build one IR is said to be between 5 billion dollars (approx. 570 billion yen) to 10+ billion dollars. Caesars sees great potential in the Japanese market. “We will spend as much as it takes when there is business potential,” says Blackhurst. Caesars plans to have Japanese companies procure the land, construct the buildings, railway, and games while it operates the resort.


“The key to success will be whether we can build a resort that can entice guests to stay for a long time,” explains Blackhurst, who served as the mayor of Las Vegas in the ‘90s. The average length of stay in Las Vegas is about four days. Similar to Singapore and Macau, Japan’s IRs will offer a variety of facilities to cater to a wide range of guests, with only 5% of the resort’s footprint dedicated to casino games.


Blackhurst pointed out how IRs could increase the number of foreign tourists to Japan. Las Vegas attracts 45 million tourists a year, compared with only 15 million in the early ‘80s. “Unlike Las Vegas, which is surrounded by desert, Japan has a wealth of tourist attractions, making it easier to draw more visitors.”


Caesars plans to introduce in Japan the gambling addiction prevention program it developed and is implementing at its various IRs. The program discloses information such as winning rates to encourage subjective decision-making, sets spending limits according to guests’ wishes, and even, when necessary, restricts their access into gaming facilities. It even removes guests from casino grounds when guests are deemed to suffer from addiction.


The leading Las Vegas-based gaming company operates 47 IRs around the world, and made 8.6 billion dollars in 2016. Although it was bought out by an investment fund in 2007 and filed for Chapter 11 from excessive debts, it completed rehabilitation proceedings in October of this year.


Other major casino operators including MGM Resorts International have started to pitch their ideas to municipalities across Japan. Yokohama and Wakayama are considering hosting IRs. Although the timeline would depend on the development of the regulatory framework, the first casino is not expected to open until 2023 or 2024 at the earliest.



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