Seven entities have submitted initial request-for-concept (RFC) materials to the Osaka authorities regarding having a casino resort in that Japanese prefecture. The tally included five “top” overseas operators, said the city mayor Ichiro Matsui at a regular media briefing held on Thursday, according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent. Mr Matsui didn’t name the seven contenders.
May 24 was the closing date for the preliminary RFC stage. A formal RFC phase was likely to conclude in August, Mr Matsui reiterated in his Thursday comments. The period from August to October would then be used for a local-government discussion of the suitor concepts.
The number of entities mentioned by Mr Matsui regarding initial RFC submissions coincided with the number of entities interested in Osaka that were mentioned during the 1st Japan IR Expo – held in Osaka from May 15 to 16 to discuss the country’s nascent casino industry. It is not clear that the organisations mentioned at the Japan IR Expo are the same ones mentioned on Thursday by the mayor.
Those expressing interest during the Japan IR Expo forum were: Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd; Genting Singapore Ltd; Las Vegas Sands Corp; Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd; MGM Resorts International; Wynn Resorts Ltd; and an “Osaka local alliance”.
Five of the seven already have Macau operations, while Las Vegas Sands additionally runs the Marina Bay Sands casino complex in Singapore, and Genting Singapore runs that city-state’s other casino venue, Resorts World Sentosa. Melco Resorts has also operations in the Philippines, running the City of Dreams Manila complex. According to our correspondent, there is no publicly-available information currently on the Osaka local group.
Osaka – run at prefecture and city level by a localist political group called the Osaka Restoration Association – has been the most bullish Japanese community regarding Japan’s casino liberalisation policy. It launched its preliminary RFC stage in late April, even before the national government has announced its own “basic policy” on integrated resorts or “IRs”. A maximum of three facilities are to be permitted in the first phase of liberalisation.
The Osaka authorities even indicated earlier this year they would like if possible to launch a resort to coincide with the World Expo 2025 – an event to be held over a six-month period that year at a site on Yumeshima Island (pictured) in Osaka Bay. They would like investors to build a casino resort on the same artificial island. But Osaka’s casino play is constrained by the pace set by the national authorities.
Osaka’s RFC phase and Osaka’s bid to the central authorities will be dependent on the national government issuing its basic policy, which will set out the criteria the central authorities will use for choosing sites.
A number of investment analysts now think it likely that the first Japan resorts will launch later than 2025. It could take between three and five years to build a large-scale Japan resort, according to Philippine casino firm Bloomberry Resorts Corp, a firm likely to be a suitor for a smaller regional project in another part of the country.
Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, chairman and chief executive of Melco Resorts, one of the Osaka suitors, has said he anticipated the price tag of a big-city casino resort might exceed US$10 billion.
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