Wakayama Officials Scrambling to Submit IR Casino Plan

Home » Wakayama Officials Scrambling to Submit IR Casino Plan

Posted on: March 8, 2022, 06:57h. 

Last updated on: March 8, 2022, 07:23h.

Wakayama Prefecture officials are becoming increasingly concerned regarding the looming deadline of April 28 imposed by the Japanese central government to field qualified integrated resort (IR) casino proposals.

Wakayama casino integrated resort Japan
Wakayama Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka speaks at a prefecture tourism event in 2019. Nisaka is urging prefecture lawmakers to quickly approve of the region’s plans to host an integrated resort casino. (Image: Inside Asian Gaming)

Wakayama is one of only three prefectures actively pursuing one of Japan’s three forthcoming IR licenses. A consortium called Clairvest Neem Ventures (CNV), led by Canadian private equity firm Clairvest Group, was selected last July by Wakayama as the prefecture’s preferred IR partner.

CNV has proposed building a JPY470 billion (US$4.1 billion) integrated resort on Marina City, an artificial island spanning approximately 121 acres on Osaka Bay.

Clairvest is no stranger to the gaming industry, as the company’s investment portfolio includes stakes in New Jersey’s Meadowlands Race Track, Delaware Park in Delaware, Canada’s Grey Eagle Resort & Casino, Chilean Gaming Holdings, and business-to-business sports betting and iGaming provider FSB Technology.

Clairvest added some name recognition to its CNV entity by luring in Caesars Entertainment. The Las Vegas Strip casino operator will hold a 5% ownership position in the Wakayama IR.

Clairvest will control 55% of CNV. The remaining 40% will be divvied up among additional investors. They include former Las Vegas Sands president and COO William Weidner’s Global Gaming Asset Management and French casino operator Group Partouche.

CNV hopes to build and open its multibillion-dollar casino destination by 2028. The current plan calls for 2,700 hotel guestrooms, a convention center, and a massive gaming floor spanning 400,000 square feet. That would make the Wakayama casino the world’s second-largest casino in terms of floor space, behind only WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma.

Time Ticking

Just 50 days remain before Japan’s central government is set to close its IR submission period. Wakayama still hasn’t submitted its casino application, despite naming Clairvest Neem Ventures its development partner eight months ago.

Wakayama Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka is growing increasingly impatient. This week, Nisaka called on the prefecture assembly to schedule an extraordinary meeting to approve the local government’s plan to host an integrated resort.

Nisaka believes the prefecture’s special committee formed specifically to review IR applications and submit the city’s candidacy to the central government is moving too slowly. The special committee has blamed the prefecture government for failing to provide funding details needed to fully approve the IR scheme and render the application to Tokyo.

Japan commenced its IR bidding period on October 1 last year. Along with Wakayama, Japan is expecting to field presentations from Osaka and Nagasaki.

Osaka has selected a consortium led by MGM Resorts. Nagasaki is aligned with Casinos Austria.

Clairvest Not First Choice

Clairvest’s IR plan wasn’t Wakayama’s preferred development. The prefecture initially fielded two qualifying plans — the other coming from Macau junket giant Suncity Group.

Wakayama’s IR special committee rated the Suncity IR plan a score of 720 points out of a possible 1,000. Clairvest’s submission scored 653 points.

Suncity suddenly withdrew its Wakayama application last May. While Wakayama was disappointed at the time, in hindsight, the Suncity exit was a good thing. Since its withdrawal, Suncity founder and former CEO Alvin Chau has been arrested in Macau and faces charges of illegally running cross-border gambling activities.

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