Adding to its recent burst of activity related to its effort to become home to an integrated resort, Osaka is altering the timing of a land transfer, pushing that timeline up six months in hopes of having a gaming venue operational by 2025.
A recent report on NHK, one of Japan’s major broadcast networks, indicates the land reserved for the integrated resort was scheduled to be transferred to the prefecture sometime after April 2022. But that move has been bumped up six months, meaning it could happen as soon as November 2021.
The NHK report indicates Osaka plans to formally commence recruiting operators for the casino project in December. MGM Resorts International, Galaxy Entertainment Group, and Genting Singapore are the gaming companies that have expressed interest in Japan’s third-largest city.
MGM, the largest operators on the Las Vegas Strip, has long focused on Osaka as its preferred location for an integrated resort in Japan, and is viewed as the leader of the pack in that competition. MGM is working with the Japanese financial services firm Orix Corp. to bring a gaming property to the city. As rivals such as Las Vegas Sands, Melco Resorts, and Wynn Resorts recently scuttled plans for that city, MGM took that as an opportunity to reiterate its “Osaka First” strategy.
Why It’s Important
News of the advanced land transfer period in Osaka is important because not only is a Japanese integrated resort project expected to be costly, the time frame from start to finish is expected to be lengthy. MGM executives previously said finishing an Osaka casino-hotel by 2025 is an ambitious endeavor.
However, CFO Corey Sanders recently told a team of Bernstein analysts that the 2025 deadline is reachable if construction can start in 2021.
The reason 2025 is mentioned in connection with the Osaka gaming effort is that the city hosts the World Expo that year. That six-month event kicks off in May 2025 in Yumeshima in Osaka Bay, the proposed location for the integrated resort.
Japanese regulators and politicians in the city want a casino there operational before the World Expo commences, so the venue (and the city) benefit from an uptick in tourism that’s expected to be significant.
News of the land transfer time being altered to expedite the construction process is the latest in a series of proposals out of Osaka underscoring the city’s commitment to winning one of the first three Japanese gaming licenses.
Late last week, a plan emerged to build an artificial island with a new ship terminal in Osaka Bay to make Yumeshima easier to reach from Kansai Airport and the city center. That proposal also features a plan to increase subway access to where the integrated resort will be located.
Earlier last week, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui floated the idea of having the city retain ownership rights to the land where the casino will go. Under that pitch, Osaka would lease the property to the winning operator, generating more revenue for the region than a one-off sale. Renting the land could be enticing for operators looking to minimize costs in Japan.