United States-based casino firm Las Vegas Sands Corp, which already has Asian operations in Macau and Singapore, has publicly affirmed its interest in Osaka as a location for its Japan casino resort bid. The city had been trailed for many months by investment analysts as a likely target for Las Vegas Sands.
The group was “well positioned” to compete for an integrated resort (IR) bid in Osaka. So said George Tanasijevich (pictured), president and chief executive officer of Marina Bay Sands, the group’s Singapore resort. The executive is also the managing director of global development for the group as a whole.
Mr Tanasijevich made his remarks on Osaka in a session on the first day of the Japan Gaming Congress 2019, a two-day conference on the country’s nascent casino sector. The Tokyo event started on Thursday.
Osaka – described by Japanese lawmakers in another conference session on Thursday as a front runner for one of up to three casino licences permitted in a first stage of market liberalisation – has already attracted the interest of other large casino companies, including MGM Resorts International, which also has a majority-owned operation in Macau.
Mr Tanasijevich rated highly his own group’s chances in Osaka. “We’re positioned quite well. We’re the only operator that has active operation in the top three integrated resort markets in the world, and they’re all distinctively different,” said Mr Tanasijevich during the session, referring to Las Vegas Nevada, Macau and Singapore.
The ability to “go into a new market and understand what is needed, and how to solve problems and meet goals,” was already part of the group’s résumé said the executive.
To “implement a business model that is right for the location is critical,” he added. “I think we demonstrated that in every place where we have opened our operations.”
He added the group had a strong record in those markets of operating non-gaming, namely meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and entertainment.
Referring to the Singapore operation, he stated: “We operate in very highly regulated market with some of the same types of conditions that will be implemented here.”
Japanese lawmakers have spoken often of the “Singapore model” in terms of Japan’s likely approach to casino regulation and protection of locals from the risk of problem gambling. Singapore has a range of safeguards to prevent such negative affects on its citizens and permanent residents.
Mr Tanasijevich noted that Las Vegas Sands was “pleased” with the Osaka authorities’ vision for Yumeshima island, a land reclamation site in Osaka Bay. It had previously been identified as the preferred site for a casino resort. Osaka’s request-for-concept (RFC) application phase for would-be commercial partners began on April 25, and ends on May 24.
“We’ve talked to the government about the need for creating a certain oversight committee that includes representations of all stakeholders – whether it is from the government, or private sector, to make sure the sequencing of things… constructing the IR… the infrastructure construction… the [World] Expo construction,” runs smoothly, Mr Tanasijevich stated, referring to activity on Yumeshima.
Las Vegas Sands was also “very interested” in having Japanese partners for the firm’s bid to compete for the rights to host an integrated resort, Mr Tanasijevich said. It had previously been reported in Japan that having a local partner and forming a consortium on that basis was likely to be a bidding condition.
“We’re meeting with companies, engaging their interest, understanding how is it that they might fit into our strategic plan… the contribution they might make to our understanding of the local market,” the executive said.
But the U.S. casino group would not “comfortable” were it to be restricted to a minority investment in a Japan integrated resort project, he said in response to a question from the audience during his Thursday address.
“That doesn’t mean we have to be [have] 100 percent. But where lies between 51 percent and 100 percent, I can’t say at this point of time. It is going to depend upon what the partners and investors want, and what level of commitment they can make,” Mr Tanasijevich said.
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