Japan’s Prime Minister has extended his nationwide state of emergency through the end of the month, as the country continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Japan has more than 15,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and the disease has been blamed for 521 deaths.
Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, and is in the process of legalizing three commercial casino integrated resorts. The market is considered the most lucrative prize in the gaming industry since China welcomed five new casino operators in its Special Administrative Region of Macau in 2001.
“May will be a month where we need to end this pandemic. It will also be a month where we will prepare for the next stage,” Abe declared.
The Tokyo capital, Osaka, and Yokohama are the three cities being targeted by casino operators for the IRs. And all three are in the prefectures with the most coronavirus cases (Tokyo 4,564 – Osaka 1,679 – Kanagawa 1,107).
Despite the coronavirus riddling the three prefectures that are home to the preferred locations for the casino resorts, the timeline to award the coveted gaming licenses isn’t expected to change. Bay City Ventures Ltd, a consultancy established in January of 2019 with the mission of providing research on the emerging Japan IR market, said as much in a recent note.
Japan’s government has stated that the country’s “Basic Policy” on casino regulations will be made public by July 26.
The IR implementation law sets the deadline for the releasing of the National IR Basic Policy on July 26, 2020,” said Bay City Ventures Managing Director Joji Kokuryo of the firm’s belief that date will remain in place.
The federal bidding schedule will run January 4, 2021, through July 30, 2021. Casinos and Japanese consortiums will partner with host cities and prefectures, and then bid the federal government for one of the licenses.
Kokuryo said July 30, 2021, is the most critical date on the IR calendar. “The deadline affects every single timeline,” he said.
“Minister Akabane of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism stated on April 14, 2020, that deliberation with municipalities will continue. But the July 30th, 2021, submission deadline is currently unchanged,” Kokuryo added.
Though analysts say the coronavirus will not impede the federal government’s IR agenda, it has pushed back prefecture deadlines for bids. Travel restrictions are making it difficult for the leading casino companies to get their executives in and out of Japan.
Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts are the consensus favorites for two of the licenses. Sands is targeting Tokyo and Yokohama, while MGM is committing all of its energy to Osaka.
In March, Osaka officials said its request-for-proposal (RFP) period was being lengthened from April to July. Yokohama delayed its RFP period by two months to August rather than June.
Tokyo has yet to formally announce its intentions to seek a casino license. But last month Global Market Advisors (GMA)said in a research brief that the capital city will indeed enter the pool of candidates.
Regarding Tokyo’s potential casino entrance, GMA says it isn’t a matter of if, but when.