With its RFP well underway and five candidates confirmed as taking part, Nagasaki is making a strong case for approval as one of Japan’s first IR host jurisdictions. IAG takes a closer look at exactly where things stand.
Judgement day has all but arrived in Nagasaki. With all five IR candidates having met the prefecture’s initial qualification requirements, and the deadline for submission of all RFP documentation expiring on 1 March, it is now a waiting game while prefecture officials meticulously analyze the pros and cons of each candidate.
An examination committee comprising eight members and chaired by Atsufumi Kikumori, Chairman of the Nagasaki Regional Policy Research Institute, will assess each operator’s IR credentials against the objectives of the prefecture as well as their operational and financial capabilities.
Once the documents have been thoroughly examined and assessed, up to three of the current five candidates will be selected for a secondary examination, meaning two will be eliminated by mid-March.
The operators must feel like they’re on an episode of Survivor.
“Every operator thinks that they are best for the job,” a representative of one of the candidates told IAG.
“However, in a way the ‘opponents’ are not the other four operators, but the prefecture itself. In the end, what will hold the most weight in the decision? The only answer is who can create a sustainable IR as per the national policy while using both Nagasaki’s desires and our own know-how as advantages. That is the solution we must seek.”
The stakes will only get higher for the three surviving candidates, with an integrity survey to be conducted in May by an independent research company, followed by a deadline in June for submission of secondary documents. A presentation will be required from each candidate in August, after which time the winning bid will be announced before the end of the month (as will the runner-up).
Let’s take a look at the candidates (listed in phonetic order by Japanese name):
Oshidori International Development is the Japanese subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed financial services firm Oshidori International Holdings Ltd. Although a newcomer to the IR industry, it astutely announced last year the appointment of former MGM Resorts boss Alex Yemenidjian as CEO to lead the Japan bid.
In January of this year they formed a partnership with US tribal casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, seemingly strengthening their claim. Mohegan, incidentally, is currently putting a lot of effort into the far east, including the development of Inspire Korea in Incheon, South Korea (due to open in 2023).
Rival operators have their eye on Oshidori, commenting, “Oshidori appears to have good balance from the perspectives of both financial strength and past achievement, and is definitely one of the top contenders.”
CASINOS AUSTRIA INTERNATIONAL
Established in 1968, Casinos Austria is partially government owned with the Austrian government holding a 33% share via holding company Österreichische Beteiligungs AG (ÖBAG). It operates 12 casinos in Austria, although none are of the size and magnitude of what it will be expected to create in Japan.
In Nagasaki, Casinos Austria is teaming up with Kengo Kuma, a world-renowned architect, to create a Japanese-style space that it says will be harmonious with the government’s chosen IR site at Huis Ten Bosch. According to Akio Hayashi, President of the company’s Japanese subsidiary, Casinos Austria is confident in its knowledge of hot springs, music and “social allure” thanks to its operations in Vienna and Salzburg. “Our strength is the security, safety and stability that comes with a state-run corporation,” he said. Rivals, however, have suggested to IAG that a “government-run corporation will be lacking in flexibility.”
Hong Kong’s Current Corp belongs to the SRC Group, which has invested in IR business, real estate, finance and entertainment tourism around Asia. SHOTOKU, also part of this group, is currently participating in the Yokohama IR bid.
Current was fast to set up offices in both Nagasaki and Sasebo cities and has taken a community-based approach, which included participating in Nagasaki’s IR seminar two years ago.
Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16, where Current’s CEO Tamotsu Suzuki got his start, has already procured HK$25 million (US$3.2 million) from Hong Kong-listed Get Nice Holdings, another partner in the consortium, as confirmation of its intent to work together. Get Nice has some casino experience in its own right, having previously held a 65% stake in Macau’s Grand Waldo hotel and casino, which it sold to Galaxy Entertainment Group in 2013 for HK$3.25 billion (US$419 million).
The Current/Get Nice partnership has flagged a focus on providing transportation infrastructure and an “anti-disaster IR” – concepts that could resonate in Japan.
NIKI CHYAU FWU (PARKVIEW) GROUP
THE NIKI originated from NIKI Club, and has formed a consortium with Taiwan architectural and development conglomerate, Chyau Fwu (Parkview) Group. Officially entering the Nagasaki race as the fifth and final contender late in the game, it has yet to provide publicly any real detail on its Nagasaki IR vision. It is rumored, however, that a major Asian IR operator is on board to oversee casino operations should its bid prove successful.
Parkview develops and operates MICE and commercial facilities in Beijing and Singapore. As far as Japan goes, they’ve jumped on some resort development projects in Okinawa and Hokkaido, and their concept for Nagasaki is a super city.
This group lives up to its name by aiming for an IR that integrates all of Kyushu. On the surface it looks as if this group, led by Pixel Companyz – whose main businesses have included casino gaming machines, systems development and real estate – only entered the Nagasaki IR race in November 2020, but the truth is they were already thoroughly prepared by that time.
The One Kyushu group appears to be rapidly expanding, having recently partnered with French casino operator Partouche Group, Japanese IR consultancy firm TTL Resorts, world-renowned casino and IR architectural design form Steelman Partners and Macau-based consultancy 2NT8 Ltd.
The plan, we’re told, is to continue padding their team with the top professionals of every sector.
Partouche had previously partnered with Oshidori but the two companies parted ways in early 2020.