Hirofumi Yoshimura, the governor of Osaka Prefecture, recently stated that the region and city will formally engage prospective integrated resort (IR) operators in December with the goal of announcing a winning bidder as soon as next spring.
Osaka is one of several of Japanese cities angling to win one of the first three gaming license the Japan will award. Some smaller metropolitan and rural areas are looking to lure integrated resort operators, but Osaka’s primary competitors are Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan’s two biggest cities.
Located on the island of Honshu, Osaka is a port city in the southern part of Japan and home to about 2.6 million residents.
Osaka prefecture and city is aiming to attract an IR facility to Yumeshima island,” reports Inside Asian Gaming. “The IR implementation policy for Osaka will be announced this month.”
City officials are looking to expedite the process because they’d like a gaming property to be operational by late 2024, in advance of the city hosting the World Expo, which starts in mid-2025. Recently, Osaka leaders said they’re considering a partial opening of the integrated resort to ensure that the operator and the city can take advantage of the increased tourism the World Expo will bring.
In recent months, the field on competitors considering Osaka has been pared as some operators have opted to focus on other cities. In August, Las Vegas Sands (LVS) said it will emphasize Tokyo and Yokohama in its quest to build a gaming venue in the Land of the Rising Sun, touching off a round of similar, “no Osaka” announcements from rivals.
About a month later, Melco Resorts said it’s scrapping Osaka plans to turn its attention to Yokohama and several weeks after that, Wynn Resorts confirmed its intent to focus on the Tokyo area.
Down from original field of seven companies, the remaining contenders for an Osaka gaming license are MGM Resorts International, Galaxy Entertainment Group and Genting Singapore with the Las Vegas-based company widely viewed as the leader.
Recently, politicians in Osaka have made moves to bolster the city’s chances of becoming one of Japan’s casino gaming destinations. Last month, the construction of a new maritime terminal was revealed with that port aimed at shuttling workers and visitors to the World Expo and the integrrated resort. Lawmakers followed that announcement up by saying a few days later the land transfer for a gaming property will be moved up to 2021 from an original time line of mid-2022.
For operators, what could prove integral to success in the bidding process is convincing policymakers and regulators that a late 2024 opening, even it’s partial, is possible.
MGM executives have previously said the 2025 goal would be tight, but not impossible. Industry analysts believe the company could have an Osaka gaming property operational in advance of the World Expo if it can break ground on the effort by 2021.