Japan loves its entertainment: From karaoke, Kabuki and manzai to anime, pachinko and sumo, the offerings are vast, diverse and, fortunately for the rest of us, easily exportable. One form of play that Japanese culture hasn't embraced, however, is casino gambling, which has been conspicuously absent from the country even as it has flourished in other Asian destinations, such as Singapore, the Philippines and Macau.
This estrangement from gaming is about to change, however, thanks to a law passed in 2018 by the Japanese Parliament, which gave a rubber stamp to three new casino resorts. Suddenly, American companies are clamoring for the opportunity to build them -- including Hard Rock International, which this week unveiled a proposal for an entertainment resort in Tomakomai, on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Presented at Hokkaido's Integrated Resort Showcase, which also was attended by Caesars Entertainment, Melco Resorts, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, the proposal came in the form of a full-scale model illustrating Hard Rock's plans. Highlights include monorail access from Chitose International Airport, a guitar-shaped Hard Rock hotel, a Four Seasons Resort, a Hard Rock Live music venue, multipurpose Broadway-style theaters, a state-of-the-art wellness center, more than 215,000 square feet of retail and dining space, and an authentic Ainu village experience designed to educate visitors about the area's indigenous Ainu people.
"For more than 45 years, our motto, 'Love All - Serve All,' has been a focal point of our company, making Hard Rock one of the most recognized and respected entertainment brands around the world," said Hard Rock International chairman and CEO Jim Allen. "We are extremely excited about the prospect of introducing our Hard Rock family to the people of Hokkaido, Japan, with this world-class entertainment resort. It will not only bring economic benefits to the local community, but also act as a gateway to learn more about the wonderful heritage of Japan and all that it has to offer."
The Japanese government has not yet announced when it will award casino licenses, nor has it said where the casinos will be located. Along with Hokkaido, other potential destinations include Okinawa, Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama, Sasebo and Tokyo.
According to previous media reports, the new casinos are expected to open by the mid-2020s.