500.com again pitching IR plans in Okinawa

Zhengming Pan, CEO of 500.com, the Shenzhen-based online sports lottery service provider, is back in Okinawa pitching his IR plans, but this time he brought along a potential partner, Kevin McGowen, CEO of Les Ambassadeurs Club in London.

According to an article in the Ryukyu Shimpo, Pan and McGowen entered Okinawa on July 21 and have conducted a series of meetings with local business executives and political leaders. Their pitch is for a casino resort that would cater to wealthy tourists.

Their vision is to tie up in a consortium with local businesses for an investment of up to JPY300 billion ($2.7 billion).

McGowen was quoted as saying, “We’d like to offer a high-end casino compatible with Okinawa’s history and tradition.”

Aside from the main island of Okinawa, the two business executives are also touring Miyakojima and the Yaeyama islands.

Pan was last reported in Okinawa at a press conference in Naha last August. More recently he has been seen in Hokkaido’s Rusutsu village tying up with the Japanese tourism company Kamori Kanko on a possible bid from that location.

Les Ambassadeurs Club has been owned since 2016 by Hong Kong-based Landing International Development Limited, and is famous, among other things, as being featured in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga has made clear that he opposes an IR bid from his prefecture, but he faces re-election in November and is battling pancreatic cancer. Local forces allied with the conservative Abe administration appear to believe that either Onaga will not be able to run again due to his failing health or that they can defeat him at the ballot box.

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