The race to develop an Osaka integrated resort has been narrowed to just three operators with MGM Resorts, Genting Singapore and Galaxy Entertainment Group the only three to submit Request for Concept (RFC) proposals, according to local media including The Nikkei, Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS) and Kentsu Shimbunsha.
While the RFC is not a selection requirement – operators who declined to submit a concept proposal will be allowed to participate in the public offering – for all intents and purposes it appears the number of operators has been trimmed following recent announcements by Las Vegas Sands and Melco Resorts & Entertainment that they would instead be focusing their efforts on Yokohama or Tokyo.
Osaka is aiming to open an IR by 2024, ahead of the 2025 World Expo, in the hope of achieving synergistic effects. The city/prefecture launched the RFC in April, asking for facility and operational policies as well as problem gambling countermeasure proposals. This was an independent measure on Osaka’s part, preemptive of the public offering that will take place based on the national government’s IR Implementation Act.
By June 2019 there were five registered operators, including the MGM/ORIX partnership, Genting Singapore, Wynn Resorts, Melco Resorts and Las Vegas Sands. Two other companies requested their names not be disclosed although it was rumored at the time that those operators were Galaxy and Caesars, bringing the total number of participants to seven. Caesars has since withdrawn its pursuit of a Japanese IR license altogether due to its impending US$17.8 billion merger with Eldorado Resorts.
While Osaka was working through its paperwork, Yokohama formally announced its intentions for an IR bid at the end of August, prompting LVS and Melco to refocus their energies.
On 4 September, Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura made it clear Osaka would start the operator public offering process even before the country had formally confirmed the Basic Policy. Going forward, the prefecture/city will start recruiting operators within the year once an Implementation Policy has been established by the local government, and it plans to select an operator around spring of next year.
A maximum of three locations will receive IR approval in Japan. Currently the leading candidates are Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama and Nagasaki. It is believed that MGM has the advantage in Osaka, but it’s fair to say all three companies would now like their chances.