Amid the scramble to secure a license to be the first casino operator to build an Integrated Resort (IR) in Japan, MGM Resorts International has finally pulled ahead of the race, with the government of Osaka confirming that the company has been the only one to bid for the project so far.
MGM teamed up with the Japanese financial giant Orix Corporation and filed its application before the deadline set for February 14. Despite strong interest from multiple companies, including Melco Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and Genting Singapore, no other company has bid for the project.
MGM to be Vetted Thoroughly in Osaka
Yet, the companies are not quite out of the overall IR race, as they may still submit bids elsewhere, including Yokohama. Before MGM Resorts can receive the go-ahead, however, it would have to stand scrutiny by the Business Selection Committee set-up to specifically examine the validity of IR applicants’ bids. The Committee should arrive at a decision by July 2020 paving the way for an IR in Osaka.
Even if MGM is cleared, which is the most likely outcome, the project and prefecture will still have to receive approval from the central government, which may yet choose another place to build the inaugural resort.
If the Committee accepts MGM’s bid, then the company will have to run public hearings through October and present its investment plan as well as explain how it intends to proceed with completing the project on time for the World Expo in 2024/2025.
Waiting on Government Approval
Once all of these hurdles have been cleared, the Prefectural Assembly and City will submit the finalized bid to the central government and hope for early approval. If everything goes according to plan, the construction of an MGM-led IR should begin by mid-2021.
Meanwhile, certain hurdles remain. Not least of all, the recent scandal implicating a number of officials still looms over the country. It recently transpired that 500.com, a Chinese lottery supplier and gaming company, has offered bribes to a number of lawmakers through local staff members.
500.com has denied wrongdoing and its CEO and Chairman, Zhaoxing Luo, has temporarily stepped down while a Special Investigation Committee (SIC) has been assigned to investigate the case and establish whether executives within the company have been using corrupt practices to gain favor for a 500.com-led casino resort project in Japan.
Despite the scandal, though, local media reported that it’s unlikely for any changes in the planning and scheduling of the integrated resorts projects to happen, despite the scandal that began late in December, 2019.
The arrested Japanese officials were reportedly helping 500.com bid for Hokkaido, a potential location that has now dropped out of the race citing environmental concerns and budgeting issues as the reason behind the decision.
Meanwhile, MGM seems poised to fulfill the specific criteria set out by the government, which include building a hotel with at least 3,000 rooms capability and a casino floor covering no more than 3% of the entire resort.