Cruise terminal in Yokohama could be the perfect place for Japan’s first casino

  • New cruise terminal in Yokohama scheduled to open in 2019
  • Cruise port could increase influx of Chinese tourists
  • Yokohama and Osaka earmarked as potential sites for new integrated resorts

Where would be best to build new casinos in Japan? The jostling by big developers and casino magnates to convince Japanese politicians that their plans stack up is likely to get more and more intense.

Japanese banking group Nomura has signalled that its real estate offshoot Nomura Real Estate Development Co Ltd is in the process of building a new cruise terminal at Yokohama port.

Japan premier Shinzo Abe
Japan premier Shinzo Abe’s snap election will delay casino legislation, but that hasn’t stopped jostling on where might be best to build them.

Working in tandem with seven other local companies, the conglomerate plans to build a whopping 28,600m3 terminal, which is claimed to be a perfect site for a casino in the future.

Nomura also named Osaka as another potential location for Japan’s burgeoning casino industry, echoing the sentiments of US casino owner Steve Wynn.

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Last month, Wynn highlighted both cities (along with Tokyo) as potential sites for casinos going forwards.

Laying the foundations

By working with local companies, Nomura sees this project as the perfect platform upon which to build an integrated resort (IR) on the site in the years to come.

IR is a recently-coined term that is used widely throughout Japan and elsewhere to signify an expansive tourist destination containing, among other attractions, a casino.

The Yokohama project – nicknamed Yokohama Pier9 – is set to comprise five storeys and 28,600m3 in floor space, meaning there will be ample space to include a casino in the future, should demand warrant it.

At the moment, however, passing the relevant legislation may be a stumbling block to the IR’s construction.

Snap election setting back casino laws

Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a surprise snap election, meaning it is now very unlikely that the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill will be enacted this year.

The bill had originally been scheduled for implementation this autumn, with prospective properties hoping to apply for licenses as early as next year.

However, the election will push gambling legislation to the back of the queue when it comes to policy priority, meaning its unlikely to see the light of day until 2018 at the earliest. Among other things, the bill will regulate how many land-based casinos are allowed in the country, whether foreign companies will be permitted a majority stake in them and the visitor restrictions for Japanese nationals.

Chinese tourists could increase casino demand

Though the authorisation of Nomura’s plans is likely to be delayed, the company are confident that they will come to fruition at some point in the future.

“The dissolution of the lower house and general election mean that debate on the legislation and the selection of regions for Integrated Resorts is now more likely to be delayed,” said Nomura in a statement.

“However, we think equity market interest in Integrated Resorts will increase again at some stage.”

One key indicator that IRs in the aforementioned cities could be a popular option is the ever-increasing Chinese market.

At present, northern Chinese cruise ports only have routes to a limited number of destinations within a week – Japan, Russia, Taiwan and South Korea. Japan is currently top of the pile in terms of popularity and the Yokohama Pier9 project is only likely to augment that popularity.

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