With renewed momentum in Japan toward the passage of a new gaming law, the projections of who would win the licenses have started again.
MGM Resorts International and Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group are the favorites to win Osaka’s coveted resort casino license, according to a report in The Japan Times.
The English-language daily cited unidentified officials in tossing the prediction into an increasingly competitive and populous field that recently got bigger with two major theme park operators, Universal Studios Japan and Huis Ten Bosch Co., announcing they are looking for partners for separate casino bids.
A bill legalizing casinos in Japan is expected to pass later this year in a special session of the National Diet, backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his governing Liberal Democratic Party, who see resort-scale casinos as an aid to reviving the country’s economy by growing foreign tourism and promoting investment. It’s a strategy that has acquired additional urgency as officials look ahead to funding an estimated US$2 billion worth of facilities and infrastructure needed to support Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Assuming the bill becomes law, the stage would be set for development of a regulatory and licensing framework to govern a market that is expected to consist of two mega-resorts initially, one each in Tokyo and Osaka, and as many as six smaller venues in regional tourist areas. As many as 12 casinos could be approved ultimately, generating up to US$40 billion a year in gaming revenue over the next decade, according to some analysts.
The prospects have attracted an A-list of global operators in addition to MGM and Galaxy—Las Vegas Sands, Melco Crown Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Genting Singapore among them— and will likely entail partnerships with Japanese companies from the pachinko and machine gaming sectors and possibly from the larger economy.
Osaka officials have been out in front of the process, designating a preferred development site on Osaka Bay and holding discussions with several major gaming companies.
Universal Studios’ bid, however, has been received coolly by the local government, which has been in and out of court since 2010 trying to get Universal to pay more for city property it leases.
“I don’t have a relationship based on trust with USJ’s management,” said Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
“USJ has no experience at all in the casino sector,” Governor Ichiro Matsui told The Japan Times.
Huis Ten Bosch’s plan is to partner up on development of a “sophisticated and elegant European-style” resort casino adjoining its flagship Dutch-themed park in Nagasaki, the company’s president, Hideo Sawada, told Kyodo News. Sawada said the complex would eventually include retail, entertainment and other facilities on 25,000 square meters of park property currently used for parking.