The Chairman of US casino operator Bally’s Corporation, Soo Kim, has confirmed his interest in the Japan IR market but says reports the company will join the first round of bidding to develop an IR in Fukuoka have overstated its involvement.
His clarification follows a joint press conference held at Hotel Okura Fukuoka on Wednesday at which it was claimed Bally’s had submitted a basic plan to the mayor of Fukuoka and key business groups to develop a JPY480 billion (US$3.94 billion) integrated resort by 2028. It was also stated that Bally’s planned to submit a bid to the central government by the 28 April 2022 deadline despite nearby Nagasaki having a planned bid in partnership with European casino operator Casinos Austria, and despite the Kyushu Governors Association – which includes the Governor of Fukuoka prefecture – having thrown its weight behind the Nagasaki bid.
Speaking exclusively to Inside Asian Gaming from Tokyo’s Narita airport on Thursday moments before returning to the United States, Kim made it clear that Bally’s did not call the press conference in question and was unaware it would be implicated in any immediate proposals to bid for a Fukuoka IR.
Instead, Kim and other senior representatives of the company – which operates 16 casinos in 11 US states and online gaming courtesy of its £2 billion (US$2.7 billion) acquisition of UK-based Gamesys Group plc in October 2021 – had merely visited Japan for an initial visit “to meet with [community developers] and to understand what the situation was on the ground, knowing full well that there is a process concluding at the end of April.”
“This was the first time we were in Fukuoka [and was] purely to understand where the process stands,” Kim explained. “There is no commitment around what we think, what project we would ultimately support or even what our involvement in that project would be.
“I think there are a lot of very interesting possibilities but we know there is very little time left. This is really groundwork that we are doing to see if we can pick up the process [at a later date].”
While Kim said he appreciated the enthusiasm of those community groups Bally’s met with during its trip, he denied ever signing off on a 100-page IR plan and related architectural drawings as was reported by some Japanese media outlets.
“We only saw those mock-ups for the first time in recent days and that’s not our modelling into what the potential is. We literally thought this was a meet and greet and getting to know what the situation is,” he said.
Kim did, however, confirm that Bally’s is interested in exploring future opportunities in Japan more closely.
“We think it is an interesting situation where if you find the right Japanese partner and bring in international expertize from a brand like Bally’s, it has a lot of potential,” he said.
“I think this is just the beginning of exploring the process but we have not made any decision on whether we are ready to move or who our partners would be.
“We acknowledge the fact that given the late hour it is almost impossible for us to join the original set of bidders but we are doing the work to ramp up on the market and the opportunity. To the extent that we do have an opportunity to get in, we’re interested.”
Asked about any short-term interest from Bally’s should the Japanese government reject Nagasaki’s bid and re-open the bidding process, Kim said, “If this is not the end of the beginning, if there is another stage, I think it is a possibility.”