Haute Japan! Groupe Barrière eyes IR opportunities

Jonathan Strock – Barrière

French luxury hotel and hospitality giant Groupe Lucien Barrière has confirmed that it has developed a ‘Japanese strategic unit’ monitoring the nation’s ‘integrated resorts’ opportunities.

The firm’s Japanese movements are confirmed by Barrière Group Casino Development Director Jonathan Strock speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Strock has been charged with leading the strategic unit, which seeks to bring European haute couture hospitality to the Asian gambling marketplace.

This July, Japan’s Diet lower house confirmed that it will allow three casinos to be developed under the mandate of its pending ‘Integrated Resorts Bill’ – which has been forwarded to the Diet upper house for it final review.

The disclosed provisions of the IR Bill, have underwhelmed global casino stakeholders who believed that Japan would commit to developing five casino resort properties.

Furthermore, Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic government has bowed to opposition integrity concerns, imposing a number of operating restrictions on the casino resorts, including – set limits on casino visits, patron entry fees and a ban on VIP/junket promotions.

Unfazed by the challenge, Strock believes that Japan’s strict operating code on casino premises will give Barrière the best base on which to launch its Asian market profile.

“Casinos have been legal in France since 1907, and Barriere also operates facilities in Switzerland, which has some of the world’s strictest regulations concerning gambling addiction and visitor management,” Strock told the Nikkei Asian Review

“We fully understand the debate in Japan over preventing addiction.”

Operating since 1912, the French hospitality group has built a European portfolio of 34 hotel-casinos, primarily operating in French upmarket destinations such as Cannes, St Tropez, and Megeve.

At present, international casino stakeholders await the final approval of Japan’s IR Bill. However further patience will be needed as Japan forms its Casino Control Commission, a department which will judge the IR tenders, enforce casino rules and monitor gambling activities.

Barrière is the latest industry incumbent to state its Japanese IR intent, with the European outfit likely to compete against US giants MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

To date, the Japanese government’s complex development of its IR Bill has perplexed industry commentators. Competing for one-of-three lucrative casino licenses Groupe Barrière, hopes that this trend continues, with Japan selecting French sophistication over American mass entertainment.

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