Osaka is proposing to improve infrastructure at Yumeshima (pictured in a file photo), an artificial island offshore from the downtown area, and which is the city and surrounding prefecture’s preferred site for a casino complex or “integrated resort” (IR) as they are known in Japan.
A policy paper issued on Friday mentioned the upgrade would include a marine terminal at the north end of the island, to handle large vessels including 1,000-passenger cruise ships, according to information collated by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent. It was reported by Nikkei Asian Review that such a facility might be completed by 2024.
Yumeshima is currently connected to downtown Osaka via a bridge. The city also intends to connect its underground railway system to Yumeshima.
In September, Fitch Ratings Inc, a credit rating agency, said in a report on the outlook for Japan’s newly-liberalising casino market – three venues will be allowed in a first phase – that while the Yumeshima site was “very large”, at 47 hectares (116 acres) it was “somewhat remote” from the rest of the Osaka metropolis and by implication the latter’s transport links to airports.
In recent days Japan public broadcaster NHK reported that – assuming Yumeshima is the settled site for an Osaka tilt at an IR – the local authorities would hand over the land to the casino resort developer six months earlier than previously anticipated. The previously-mentioned handover date was April 2022.
The metropolis has said it would like to time the opening of a casino resort with World Expo 2025. The Expo will be held in Osaka for a period of six months that year.
Last week it was reported that Osaka’s mayor, Ichiro Matsui, was favouring the idea of leasing out local land used for any IR, rather than selling it to any IR development partnership favoured by Osaka. The metropolis will still need to get the nod from the national government in order to move ahead with its casino plans, regardless of what partner or partners get selected locally.
Issues about safety of investment and licence tenure in the Japanese market were raised by Fitch in its September report. The institution highlighted investor concern about a likely condition in Japan that there would be a licence renewal process every 10 years, despite a likely US$10 billion-plus capital spend on buildings being required.
In Macau, upon market liberalisation at the beginning of the 21st century, licences were issued on the basis of an approximately 20-year tenure in the market. Most of the major casino resorts built in Macau are on land provided by the local government on a time-limited basis, under a public concession system.
Recently a number of major casino operators has passed up the chance to partner with Osaka on a Japanese IR. United States-based MGM Resorts International, parent of Macau operator MGM China Holdings Ltd, has been consistent in its public statements in support of Osaka.
Osaka began in late April a request-for-concept phase for private-sector partners interested in acting as a partner for the metropolis on a gaming resort.
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Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China