Wakayama Ratifies Casino Development with Canadian Private Equity Firm

By | August 27, 2021

Wakayama is officially proceeding with its integrated resort (IR) dreams. The prefecture hopes to receive approval from Japan’s central government to allow a development group to construct a $4.3 billion casino destination in its namesake capital’s Marina City.

Wakayama casino integrated resort Japan IR
Marina City in Wakayama is viewed from above. The marina is where Wakayama officials and its integrated resort developer hope to build a multibillion-dollar casino property. (Image: Shutterstock)

Prefecture officials confirmed this week that it has signed an IR agreement with a consortium led by Clairvest Neem Ventures (CNV), a recently formed subsidiary of Toronto-based private equity firm Clairvest Group.

Clairvest Neem Ventures has been selected as a private business operator to carry out Wakayama IR,” a prefecture statement explained. “The area development plan was approved by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and an implementation agreement was concluded.”

Clairvest’s investment portfolio includes casinos in the US, Canada, and Chile. The company also has a major stake in London’s business-to-business iGaming provider, FSB Technology.

Clairvest’s CNV entity created for its Japan ambitions involves two other companies — French casino operator Groupe Partouche, and AMSE Resorts Japan Limited. AMSE is a unit controlled by William Weidner, a longtime casino executive who previously served as the president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands.

Japan First

Japan’s efforts to bringing commercial IR casinos to the country in order to generate tourism has not gone as expected. The country’s legislature — the National Diet — legalized commercial gaming in July of 2018.

More than 36 months later, and Japan is still many years away from opening its first large-scale casino complex. The country’s lethargic legislative and regulatory process has frustrated casino companies. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the slow journey.

Enthusiasm among the world’s biggest casino operators has greatly subsided since 2018. But Wakayama signing an IR development agreement is a major milestone.

Wakayama is the first prefecture to sign off on IR terms with a casino syndicate.

“The prefecture and priority holders will jointly contribute to regional development and to the national tourism-oriented policy,” the prefecture release added. Wakayama officials say it will submit its IR proposal with CNV before Japan’s bidding deadline of April 28, 2022. Japan’s Casino Administration Committee will issue up to three gaming licenses.

Project Details

Wakayama’s IR plan, the local government says, will continue to be crafted over the coming weeks, as the prefecture and city work directly with CNV. Clairvest’s original blueprint suggested 2,700 hotel rooms, a convention center, and a large casino floor measuring some 400,000 square feet. If that gaming space is realized, it would make the Wakayama casino one of the world’s largest in terms of square footage.

Wakayama city and prefecture leaders say each component of the IR will first and foremost be designed with the goal of best igniting the local economy by creating jobs. The government also plans to meet with residents to gain their recommendations and feedback on early drawings.

Potential features of the complex include an indoor sports arena, a virtual reality gaming center, and retail facilities ranging from a farmers’ market to high-end luxury shopping mall.

Wakayama also hopes to offer guests a bounty of health and wellness excursions. That could be highlighted by guided tours to Mount Koya, a nearby temple settlement.

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