Hokkaido shifts to the slow lane on IR policy

The central government’s delay in firming up the regulatory framework for the IR industry appears to have convinced new Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki that he might as well shift to a slower lane as well, taking more time to decide his basic policy on whether or not to pursue an IR bid.

Concretely, Governor Suzuki has reportedly decided not to seek a JPY200 million (about $1.8 million) budget to hire an advisory firm to study an IR development at Tomakomai. The inclusion of this budget had been tentatively planned, but the governor made the decision to drop it for the time being, signaling his intention for a go-slow approach.

Hokkaido officials are no longer sure whether or not the central government still plans to select the three locations for IR licensing by the end of FY2020.

This comes on the heels of a statement by James Allen of Hard Rock International that his firm is prepared for an investment of “over $5 billion” to build an IR at the Tomakomai location, which is the largest figure suggested by an IR operator for a Japanese regional market.

Allen also mentioned a highly ambitious target of 2022-2023 for the opening of the Tomakomai IR, an earlier date than anyone else has publicly suggested. Allen believes a Hard Rock IR in the city would directly employ more than 4,000 people.

It appears increasingly unlikely that the Japanese officials’ timeline and Hard Rock’s proposed timeline can easily be reconciled.

About half a dozen other international IR operators have expressed a clear interest in making a bid for the Tomakomai location.