The head of Asian casino developer Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, has said he favours building a casino resort in the Japanese city of Osaka rather than in the country’s capital, Tokyo. Mr Ho’s comments were made in an interview with Bloomberg, published on Monday.
“When you go to the Kansai region, it’s more fun, really,” said Mr Ho (pictured), chairman and chief executive of Melco Resorts.
“I’m not so sure Tokyo needs an integrated resort,” Mr Ho told the media outlet. “Tokyo by itself is amazing. It’s like when people ask me: ‘Do you think New York and London need an integrated resort?’ No, they don’t,” he added.
The Kansai region includes several Japanese cities favoured by tourists, including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara.
Mr Ho had said at the CLSA Japan Forum 2017 in February – an investor conference in the Japanese capital Tokyo – that his firm would “absolutely spend whatever we need to win” a Japan casino licence.
Earlier this month, a panel of experts advising the Japanese government on the casino legislation process suggested that prefectural governments and those of designated cities should respectively link with casino operators in order to submit jointly an integrated resort proposal. These proposals would then be reviewed at a national level, by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, which would select the projects to be implemented.
Following the passage on December 14 of an enabling bill to legalise casinos in Japan, a number of investment analysts mentioned the possibility that foreign firms with expertise in casino operations might link – in likelihood as minority partners – with Japanese firms looking for new growth opportunities at home, in order to bid jointly for a Japanese casino licence.
Mr Ho confirmed in his interview with Bloomberg that Melco Resorts was in the process of meeting with potential Japanese partners for a casino resort in Japan. He gave no details on potential agreements already made; instead, Mr Ho compared the process to “speed dating”, with several international casino operators interested in a casino licence in Japan courting some of the same potential Japanese partners.
Global Market Advisors LLC (GMA) – a U.S.-based consultant to the casino gaming, hotel and airline industries – said in a recent white paper on Japan’s nascent gaming industry that there will be an initial one to three casino resorts in the first round of request for proposals.
The consultancy suggested in the document that an “Osaka Strip” concept should be considered, for a world-class casino gaming hub in Japan with multiple venues, to compete with the likes of the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada and the Cotai Strip in Macau.
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"We’re going to know probably in the next three or four months what the timing is going to be for Osaka"
Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International