The field of those interested in operating one of the integrated casino resorts being planned for Japan now has another player after local tourism firm Kamori Kanko Company Limited announced the signing of an agreement with property developer Niseko Alpine Developments.

Although most casino gambling is currently illegal in Japan, legislators controversially ratified enabling legislation in December that could lead to construction starting on up to four integrated casino resorts before the end of the decade. Numerous foreign firms such as Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited, Genting Singapore, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited and Boyd Gaming Corporation have already expressed an interest in winning the right to build and operate one of these facilities. Others including the likes of Hard Rock Cafe International Incorporated have even established dedicated local subsidiaries in order to support any coming bid.

However, this pool of potential casino operators got even bigger on Sunday after Kamori Kanko Company Limited, which was previously the largest ski resort operator in the United States, agreed a deal with Niseko Alpine Developments to redevelop the existing Rusutsu Resort at a cost of up to $500 million. Master-planned in a mountainous region of southern Hokkaido some 30 years ago, this ski resort already features four golf courses alongside a theme park but the agreement calls for these facilities to be augmented by the building of a luxury hotel as well as an exclusive spa venue.

Niseko Alpine Developments is already responsible for The Vale Niseko ski resort on Hokkaido and it explained that the pact is to moreover see the Rusutsu Resort add ‘new retail and entertainment developments’ as well as ‘further hotel facilities’ over the course of 2018.

“The plan includes a strong bid platform for one of the upcoming integrated resort licenses for Japan; possibly one of the first casinos in the country,” read a statement from Jonathan Martin, Chairman for Niseko Alpine Developments. “We’re also excited to offer private ownership within Rusutsu Resort; a new way for property owners to partner directly with the resort operator.”

For its part, Kamori Kanko Company Limited stated that it had elected to collaborate with Niseko Alpine Developments because the redevelopment of Rusutsu Resorts is due to require ‘a highly strategic approach’. It described its new companion as ‘the perfect partner’ before declaring that it had been ‘instrumental in identifying the path to executing’ the long-term growth plan for Rusutsu Resort.

“Unlike the structure of other Hokkaido resorts, we own Rusutsu [Resort] in its entirety including the resort, ski lifts, golf courses and theme park.” read a statement from Kimihito Kamori, President for Kamori Kanko Company Limited.