Foxwoods mulls IR bid for Tomakomai

Foxwoods Resort Casino, based in the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation within the US state of Connecticut, is among the six international IR operators that are mulling a bid to partner with Tomakomai city, Hokkaido, to build an IR.

Leading this exploration had been Felix Rappaport, president, and CEO of Foxwoods, but when he suddenly and unexpectedly died in June, the company suffered a major blow and its campaign temporarily lost its direction.

In Connecticut, it was Chairman Rodney Butler who stepped in as interim president and CEO. In Japan, Mike Tanji, chairman of Gaming Capital Management, informally handled the company’s local interests while it sorted out its management decisions at home.

Asia Gaming Brief recently sat down with Tanji to discuss Foxwoods’ interest in Japan and the likely direction of its future efforts.

It was Tanji who gave Foxwoods’ recent public presentation in Tomakomai, but among the decisions which are pending is the exact contractual relationship that Gaming Capital Management will have with Foxwoods going forward—whether it will become the direct agent of Foxwoods or will continue to act in an informal advisory position.

At any rate, Tanji suggests that Foxwoods will likely establish a small physical presence within Japan in the near future.

Foxwoods will only have an interest in a smaller, regional IR, and Tomakomai, in particular, is very much the location at the top of their list. Tanji feels that this is the best match because “Tomakomai is quite close to Connecticut in terms of environment,” meaning both the natural environment as well the local political structure.

Tanji also feels that Foxwoods—as a major destination resort in a rural location—very much fits what the Japanese central government has in mind when it thinks about licensing IRs as a means to developing regional economies and triggering the creation of a more diverse society.

Tanji clearly acknowledges, however, that Tomakomai is far from a sure thing. He believes that it is indeed possible that opposition parties could capture either the governor’s post (if Harumi Takahashi chooses not to run for reelection) or the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly in next spring’s elections, and this could result in Hokkaido suddenly dropping out of the IR race.

He also has some concerns about the specific requirements that the central government may impose as it fleshes out the details of the IR Implementation Act.

Aside from Tomakomai, Foxwoods has also been in communication with the Nagasaki prefectural officials, though this seems a less ideal fit with the kind of operation that Foxwoods already runs in Connecticut.

For now, Foxwoods is keeping an eye on how things develop in Japan, and if they like what they’re seeing, a serious bid—most likely in Tomakomai—may be forthcoming next year.