Asian casino operator and developer Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd says it will adopt a “Yokohama First” policy in its pursuit of a Japan casino licence. The firm says it has ended its interest in Osaka as a site for a resort project.
In a Wednesday statement, the group’s chairman and chief executive Lawrence Ho Yau Lung (pictured) stated “Yokohama First” meant that “the incredible team of experts and talents we have assembled will focus on bringing to Yokohama the best IR the world has ever seen,” referring to an integrated resort or “IR” as such large-scale casino projects are known in Japan.
“Our team is well-positioned to contribute to Yokohama’s future and to support the community in its ambition to become a global tourism destination. This is a commitment to the city, our partners, and the community there,” added Mr Ho.
Recently it emerged that the group planned to open an office in Yokohama.
Yokohama proposed on Tuesday a JPY400-million (US$3.7 million) supplementary budget for promotion of its IR ambitions, to cover financial years 2019 to 2021.
In Wednesday’s press release, Melco Resorts’ boss thanked Osaka for its effort in working with the firm.
“I would like to thank the city of Osaka for their consideration and for constructive dialogues that we have had with them,” Mr Ho was quoted as saying.
“They demonstrated a very professional approach in their commitment to build an IR in Yumeshima. I would like to personally thank the Osaka government for the collaborative discussions we had with them over the years.”
In May 2017, Mr Ho had said that the Kansai region – in which Osaka sits – was “more fun” as a potential casino resort site than some other places.
In June this year, Melco Resorts was among five casino firms publicly identified has having taken part in Osaka’s casino resort request-for-concept (RFC) phase that had begun in late April.
Tuesday’s press statement confirmed Melco Resorts would “not proceed further with Osaka’s RFC process”.
Melco Resorts’ decision to drop Osaka in favour of Yokohama will pitch the group against its existing competitor in the Macau gaming market, United-States-based Las Vegas Sands Corp.
In late August the American operator – that has Macau casinos under its Sands China Ltd unit and also runs an operation in Singapore’s casino duopoly – had said it would focus on Tokyo and Yokohama in its effort to be allowed to build a casino resort in Japan, and would no longer pursue such an opportunity in Osaka.
U.S.-based MGM Resorts International, parent of Macau casino licensee MGM China Holdings Ltd, has repeatedly said it is pledged to Osaka in pursuing a Japan casino licence.
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”Back in March, we decided that until there’s more clarity on what the business is going to look like, what the world is going to look like, and what the regulations really are over there, we’re pretty much ceasing our efforts [in Japan regarding pursuit of a casino project]”
Group chief executive of casino operator Wynn Resorts