Osaka RFP Likely To Be Suspended Amid COVID-19

The global gambling industry has been struck hard by COVID-19, and Japan gaming has not been spared. Seemingly, the virus is here to stay; Nagasaki, one of the leading contenders to host a new casino resort, has decided to move forward with its plans to start receiving applications from private-sector businesses looking to get involved in the fledgling market.

While the prefecture is forging ahead, the regional authorities in Osaka have proposed that the prefecture’s RFP process should be placed on the back-burner as it deals with the immediate issue of the coronavirus pandemic. A firm deadline has not yet been offered, as Osaka wants to wait to see what the national government has in store with its IR Basic Policy, but it appears that at least six months will be tacked on.

Earlier on, Nagasaki reported that it did not want any more interruptions than would be completely necessary. Local officials said two months ago that they were moving forward with a request for proposal (RFP) and introduced the Kyushu-Nagasaki IR Basic Concept. In keeping with its plan, the prefecture just wrapped up a three-week event that included virtual meetings to discuss the big IR picture, as well as the RFP process and what’s expected from operators. As part of the plan, Nagasaki forecasts an IR will bring in $5.6 billion in economic benefits related to the construction of the resort.

In a statement, Masahiko Kunihiro of Nagasaki’s IR planning department said the meetings, which were able to be conducted despite the coronavirus, were an “important step” ahead of the official RFP launch and that they enabled all participants looking to get involved in understanding exactly what’s expected of them. Likewise, those potential candidates were also given a forum to explain their current operational readiness following the hit received by COVID-19 and discuss what’s needed to make a full recovery.

Additionally, Kunihiro said Nagasaki Governor Hodo Nakamura last week stated that the current plan was to commence with the RFP process in the summer and decide on the IR partner in the winter of this year. Considering the current national schedule, the prefecture and IR partner would then spend several months creating an IR Implementation Plan to submit to the central government.

On the other hand, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said the desire of operators to expand to Osaka remained the same, but they had not been able to make progress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, he said that would almost certainly guarantee that it would not be possible for Osaka to see an IR in 2026 or ’27, with ’28 or ’29 becoming more realistic targets as time marched on. Matsui offered, in discussing any potential launch, they would consider what must be reviewed upon negotiation with the operator.