Globally renowned casino architect Paul Steelman says that Japan must create a casino cluster rather than award single casino licenses to individual cities if it hopes to achieve its goal of boosting inbound tourism.
Speaking exclusively to Inside Asian Gaming, Steelman revealed that his company, Steelman Partners, has already developed a range of preliminary design ideas for potential Japanese integrated resorts ahead of the expected passing of the country’s IR Implementation Bill in mid-2018.
But he warned against developing single casinos in multiple cities, pointing instead to the success of casino towns such as Las Vegas and Macau as the examples Japan must follow.
“Las Vegas has proved and will continue to prove that a planned group of casinos with a large convention center, stadiums and other attractions will continue to attract large numbers of tourists,” he said.
“The spectacle of the group, the endless entertainment possibilities, something new during each and every visit keeps casinos focused on creating events that will fill the hotels. A single casino has less initial investment and once operating less desire to ‘risk’ to create attractions.
“There is no single casino in the world that attracts the same quantity of tourists as Fremont Street (in Downtown Las Vegas) does. The collective sum of the parts far outweighs any one casino.”
The concept of a casino cluster in Japan was first raised publicly last year with consultancy firm Global Market Advisors calling for an Osaka Strip of IRs to be developed on Osaka’s Yumeshima Island.
In its White Paper: Japan Integrated Resorts released last May, GMA said that, “Developing the Osaka site, with multiple operators on the ‘Osaka Strip’, would create critical mass and a true tourist destination. This would compete with Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore in generating nearly US$11 billion from that district alone.”
While Steelman isn’t necessarily calling for the Osaka Strip itself, he does want multiple IRs in a single location which he envisions being “connected by long boulevards filled with entertainment and those long boulevards being populated by fantastically designed Japanese buildings that are just to die for.”
“I mean, just scattering casinos around the country – yes they’ll be successful but will they create a major increase in tourism? I don’t think so,” Steelman told IAG.
“What makes Las Vegas great is the sum of its parts – the sum of its parts being organized by the Las Vegas Convention Center. Everyone talks to one another and everyone works together more or less in a hand in hand situation. Downtown Las Vegas (pictured) as a group attracts 18 million customers a year. Think about that – 18 million people is more than Disneyworld.
“If Japan was going to do one thing it would be to promote that effort [of collaboration], wherever these things are going to be.
“We always look for four or five things to do with a casino so going to the beach, going to the golf course or whatever it might be. Japan has a lot of these activities.
“Everyone is going into Japan with this notion of having exclusivity, that’s what everyone wants, but success come when the licensees really talk to one another like in Las Vegas. Then the sum of the parts become greater than the whole.”