Genting Singapore Ltd, operator of the Resorts World Sentosa casino complex in Singapore, confirmed to GGRAsia that it would “focus efforts and resources” on the port city of Yokohama regarding the firm’s tilt at a casino licence in Japan.
“While Genting Singapore participated in the Osaka RFC [request-for-concept phase]; after reviewing and considering shareholder feedback, it did not register for the Osaka RFP [request-for-proposal phase], for which registration closed on February 14, 2020,” a spokesperson on behalf of Genting Singapore noted to GGRAsia in an email in response to our enquiry on the topic. It was referring to its involvement with the early stages of the private-sector partner selection process pursued by another Japanese metropolis.
A maximum of three integrated resorts or “IRs” – as large-scale casino resort complexes are known in Japan – will be allowed in the country’s first phase of liberalisation. Japan’s central authorities said last month they planned to stick to a previously-mentioned timetable under which suitably-qualified local governments in Japan will be able to ask the national government for the right to host a casino resort. The application window will be January 4, 2021, to July 31 of that year.
“Genting Singapore will continue to engage in the ongoing RFC by Yokohama, and focus efforts and resources on delivering a compelling proposal which will make Yokohama a must-visit tourism destination, with particular prominence in MICE and leisure,” the spokesperson remarked, referring latterly to meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) business.
The management of Genting Singapore has recently been quoted as saying that it hoped to “secure a consortium by September/October timeframe” in its pursuit of an IR licence in Japan. The casino investor said earlier this month it had won overwhelming approval from its shareholders to pledge up to US$10 billion in investment in a casino resort “with respect to any one prefecture or city” in Japan.
A 47-hectare (116-acre) site on Yokohama city’s waterfront at Yamashita pier is the local authorities’ preferred site for a casino resort complex.
The government in Yokohama said last week it would announce in March the city’s “draft basic policy” on IRs, and there would be a period of public consultation on that draft, starting the same month. The local government also said it expected to have by June a finalised version of the local IR policy.
Yokohama’s declared suitors include, apart from Genting Singapore, Macau gaming operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, which has itself withdrawn from the Osaka race.
It was announced in mid-February that a consortium consisting of United States-based casino operator MGM Resorts International and Japanese financial services group Orix Corp had been identified as the sole qualified applicant to work with the city and prefecture of Osaka in a tilt for a casino complex there.
Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd and U.S.-based Wynn Resorts Ltd – groups that also have casino operations in the Macau market via subsidiaries – have also respectively announced a Yokohama focus in their respective campaigns to win a Japan casino licence.
Meanwhile in a February 21 note, Japanese brokerage Nomura mentioned that Genting Singapore planned to participate in the Yokohama RFP process by the “second half of 2020”.
Despite the interest in Yokohama from casino-sector investors, and a local-government push to host a casino resort there, there has been some vocal local opposition to such a move.
A Tuesday report by the news outlet Nikkei Asian Review, said an IR opposition activist group in Yokohama was trying to collect “62,000 signatures” in order to force a local plebiscite on the city’s move to host an IR scheme. The same group was also reported to be seeking to gather the “nearly 500,000” signatures that would be needed to force a recall election on Yokohama’s mayor, Fumiko Hayashi.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés