Hokkaido Keen On Pushing Forward With Green IR Proposal
- Hokkaido will consider the prospect of a “green IR” to develop its tourism industry
- It aims to attract over 10.4 million tourists each year with the IR project
- Hokkaido missed the chance to pursue an IR in 2019 due to environmental issues
The Hokkaido prefecture declined to take part in the bidding process for the initial round of casino liberalization in Japan, but it has not totally abandoned plans to build its own integrated resort (IR) with casino.
In a recent statement, Kenji Koganezawa, the head of the Hokkaido Tourism Organization, said they will explore the prospect of having a “green IR” as part of efforts to drive more tourists to the island and boost its economy.
IR to Boost Hokkaido Tourist Numbers
The local government of Hokkaido aims to increase the island’s tourist numbers to more than 10.4 million each year, up from the 8.36 million recorded in 2019, before the pandemic. Officials shared that plan in an announcement this week during which it was mentioned that an IR could help achieve that target.
This is not the first time that Hokkaido spoke of plans to host an IR since November 2019, when it decided not to proceed with a proposal for a casino resort due to environmental concerns.
In December 2022, the city government of Tomakomai expressed its intention to pursue an IR as part of its public policy plan covering the period 2023 – 2027. City Mayor Hirofumi Iwakura stated during that time that the Uenae area would be the preferred location for the development.
Foreign Investors Still Interested in Hokkaido IR
Despite not participating in the first round of casino liberalization in Japan, Hokkaido remains a top choice for foreign investors, according to Japanese professor Toru Mihara who currently sits as Chairman of the National Council on Gaming Legislation. In a presentation during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia event in Singapore back in May, Mr. Mihara said there are still foreign companies keen on investing in an IR project in regional markets such as Hokkaido or Okinawa.
Osaka is currently the only prefecture to have obtained approval from the national government for its IR policy. The local governments of Osaka are partnering with US-based MGM Resorts International and Japanese firm Orix Corp to develop a casino complex on the man-made Yumeshima Island in Osaka Bay.
The development, which now has an initial investment cost of JPY1.27 trillion, (up from the original JPY190 billion) is slated to open in autumn 2030.