Chiba Seeks Casino Site on a Floating Island in Tokyo Bay
Chiba is now on the list of Japanese cities seeking a casino site. The Chiba Prefecture is about 25 to 30 miles from Tokyo Station by car and is considered part of the Tokyo Greater Metropolitan area.
Bloomberg News reported that the push for a Chiba casino is led by small businesses in the area. It business leaders tout its strong resident support as an advantage over the larger destinations like Yokohoma.
While Chiba might be seen as a smaller city-scape, it is the 6th largest city in Japan. Chiba has over 6 million people, which puts it on a par with Los Angeles. Chiba appears ready to compete with Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama to host one of the first three casinos developed in Japan.
Some experts believe Chiba is getting in the game too late to have a sound plan for convincing officials to choose their site. Others believe high construction costs in Tokyo, along with labor resources diverted to preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, could make outlying parts of the Tokyo metropolitan area like Chiba an attractive alternative.
Japanese Casino License Applicants
The competition for a casino license is going to be fierce. Two major Chinese companies, Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited and Galaxy Entertainment, plan to make big pushes for a Japanese casino license.
At least four US casino companies also plan to apply for a license: Las Vegas Sands Corporation, MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment. The first three American casino groups are major players on the Las Vegas Strip, while Mohegan Gaming is the owner of the world-famous Connecticut tribal casino, Mohegan Sun.
Mohegan Gaming also manages casinos throughout North America, including Morris Bailey’s Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, Mohegan Sun Pocono in Pennsylvania, and Ilani Casino Resort on the Washington-Oregon border in the American Northwest.
IR Implementation Bill Process
The Japanese licensing process should begin later this year. The LDP and Komeito Party plan to extend the 150-day session of the Japanese Diet beyond its original end date of June 20 to assure the IR Implementation Bill is passed.
If that happens, then the IR Bill would lay out a date 3 to 6 months in the future to begin licensing — likeliest 6 months out. Decisions on the casino companies‘ licensing should be announced early in 2019. Development could begin in late-2019, with grand openings expected by 2021 or 2022.
Chiba v. Tokyo v. Yokohama
Chiba’s leaders signaled as early as 2013 they would be willing to seek a casino site. Despite early signs of interest, Professor Toru Mihara, an economics professor at Osaka University, is skeptical the city can make a compelling case for a casino on such short notice.
Toru Mihara said, “The problem about Chiba is that it’s not clear what the local administration wants to do. Chiba’s rivals will be cities around Tokyo. No one has officially raised their hand yet, but they will make their position clearer when a casino implementation bill passe.”
Chiba Floating Island Casino Project
The rumored plan by Chiba’s business leaders sounds ambitious. A group of businessmen came together about a year ago to brainstorm on a casino development plan. Those business leaders were from a wide range of industries, including design, engineering, and health care.
Ikuo Kantake, leader and spokesman for the Chiba business coalition, spoke recently about their idea for a 5.7 million-square-foot artificial floating island off the Port of Chiba — which is the largest seaport in the country — in Tokyo Bay. The plan is for the offshore island to house luxury cruise ships. The casino would be built on the floating island near Chiba.
Outlying Areas and Islands Not Considered
Most of the talk of Japanese casinos in the last few months has centered on the great population centers. In the middle stages of the casino law discussions, residents in Japanese rural areas and islands in the north of Japan lobbied to be considered as potential casino sites. Those areas complained that they needed economic stimulation more than Tokyo or Osaka.
A half-year to a year later, the outlying areas do not seem to be up for consideration, though there might be an explanation. Several media sources have suggested that the first wave of casino licensing is going to involve 2 to 3 casinos. Originally, the number of casino licenses being considered was as high as 6.
If licensing goes in two waves, then one might considered that Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, and Osaka are going to vie for those casinos licenses. If a second wave happens, then the next 2 to 4 casinos might go to island areas or rural locations — or a city like Chiba, if it does not win a casino site in the first round of licensing.