Just returned from yet another Japan Gaming Congress. Things seem to have progressed somewhat slowly since last year’s Congress, but as compared to last year when prognosticators were all over the board as to when Integrated Resorts would ultimately pop up in Japan (2024-2030), there didn’t appear to be much variance this time around (2025-“optimistically 2026”). Perhaps the biggest sticking point, or possible need to a regulatory tweak, was the issue that casino permits would need to be renewed within three years of opening, which could be viewed as risky by financiers on what may be $10b projects. Much of this concern was put to rest, citing that it would be illogical to think that a government would shut down a business or industry that generates many thousands of jobs and billions (trillions, in Yen) of economic impact, unless the operator was a bad actor (in which case a forced sale would be more appropriate than eliminating the business altogether).

It appears also that there are a lot of negotiations going on between international gaming operators and local companies, as while there is no mandate to have a domestic partner, having one is clearly an unwritten requirement simply to a) have someone with a grasp of Japanese culture as part of the design and decision-making team, as well as knowledge of, and connections with Japanese suppliers, and b) to demonstrate that a sizable share of economic impacts that are created will stay within Japan, given that these will be competitive bids. So far, only MGM’s partnership with Orix has been the only foreign/domestic partnership publicly announced.

This summer should come the next big announcement by the central government, to reveal how the whole process of towns/regions submitting bids for the three available licenses will work, and under what timeline. How this works will shed more light on what the ultimate timeline will be for the first integrated resort opening. As well as the mad scramble for partnering up, and for towns to decide once and for all whether they are going to be bidding for integrated resort licenses. Notably silent so far has been the Tokyo/Yokohama region.

On a side note, I took in a free day in Tokyo and checked out the Mori TeamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum.  For the integrated resorts we talk about the need to have a WOW Factor. All I can say about my visit to the TeamLab museum is “WOW!”, and that is an unfair understatement.

Scott Fisher, Ph.D.

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