In a major policy shift for Osaka, Mayor Ichiro Matsui stated on Friday that he was now willing to accept a full-scale opening of an IR after the end of the 2025 World Expo.
Until now, Osaka has been adamant that it wanted a synergistic effect by opening an IR before the start of the Expo in order to fully capitalize on revenue opportunities. However, operators have long expressed concerns about such a short construction schedule.
According to officials of the city and prefecture, adjustments are now being made to indicate that an IR opening during the 2026 fiscal year will be permitted in the operator recruitment criteria, to be published by the end of the year.
“We cannot ignore the concerns of operators,” Matsui explained at a press conference Friday, albeit adding, “We do not need to give up on Spring 2025 [for opening].”
Nevertheless, given that Osaka city and prefecture will be working together with the operators, Matsui admitted they could not force impossible conditions on their operator partners.
Japan’s IR Implementation Act requires that five core facilities – including international conference and exhibition facilities as well as hotels – be complete alongside the casino, and establishes other criteria such as visitor capacity and area of the facility.
Osaka is demanding construction of a facility that far exceeds the basic criteria set by the national government, which has led to hesitation from operators when it comes to a realistic opening date.
According to city and prefectural officials, various options are being considered for opening such as a partial early opening of the facility that will at least meet the national standards or a full opening that will pass the prefecture/city requirements.
According to the Implementation Policy Draft announced in November, Osaka is aiming for an opening before the Expo, but if this is strictly adhered to there is a major risk of operators withdrawing. Three operators – Las Vegas Sands, Melco Resorts and Wynn Resorts – have already shifted their focus to Yokohama, leaving MGM Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment Group and Genting Singapore as the remaining contenders for Osaka.
As stated by Governor Hiroshi Yoshimura, “There is no point holding recruitment if no one is going to apply.”