Kitakyushu is the latest city in Japan to drop out of the intense competition to land one of three gaming licenses to be awarded by the national government.
The Kyushu island community attracted three gaming operators and affiliated investors interested in opening an integrated resort, GGRAsia reported. But several concerns arose which do not make the southern Japanese locale a good fit, the report adds.
Kitakyushu Mayor Kenji Kitahashi recently explained the city does not have an acceptable parcel for the property. Kitahashi also believed there was too much risk associated with the scheme, especially given the requirements from the national government.
Beyond these reasons, it appears the integrated resort was unpopular with many city residents. Also, city leaders were wary about meeting national government deadlines.
As of now, the national government will require applications between next January to the end of July 2021, GGRAsia said.
One site that had been proposed for a hotel-casino in Kitakyushu was a parcel close to the local railroad station. The Kokura Station North Exit property is accessible through monorail. It also is close to nearly a dozen hotels.
That part of the city is also expected to become home to a large convention center and theme park in the coming years. The city is also relatively close to Fukuoka Airport, which is about 41 miles away.
The proximity to transportation hubs and the other attractions were a benefit for any casino property. Kitakyushu is also relatively close to Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei. These regions could be locations where interested tourists and players might reside.
Kitakyushu officials had estimated, excluding the purchase of land, building a gaming property in the city would have cost about $5.5 billion. It would have provided approximately $690.5 million in taxes.
Other Possible Japanese Casino Locations
Another Kyushu city — Sasebo — is also being considered for an integrated resort. One potential location there is Sasebo’s Huis Ten Bosch theme park.
As of November, Melco Resorts, Sands, and Wynn each expressed interest in cities far larger than Kitakyushu. Kitakyushu has a population of just over 961,000.
For its part, Melco is “all-in” on Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, while Sands and Wynn have also expressed interest in that area, as well as Tokyo.
Interest in Casino Licenses Appears to Falter
In November, Hokkaido’s governor, Naomichi Suzuki, withdrew the region from consideration for a gaming venue, citing environmental concerns. Earlier this month, Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai said his city is exiting the gaming venue competition, too.
A recent survey by Kyodo News indicates that nearly 71 percent of those polled in Japan believe their government should revisit plans to embrace integrated resorts. That comes amid a cloud of bribery that has ensnared several politicians and a Chinese gaming company. Just over 21 percent of those polled believe the country’s plans to embrace casino gaming should proceed.
Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and proponent of casino resorts in Japan, was arrested in December on suspicion of receiving 3.7 million yen ($33,800) in bribes from Chinese gambling operator 500.com Ltd., Kyodo News reported.
Still, this week Yokohama Deputy Mayor Toshihide Hirahara said an integrated resort will drive new tourism to Japan’s second-largest city and bolster tax revenue.