Over the next 12 months, there should be a lot of forward progress made in Japan’s efforts to bring integrated resorts (IR) to the country. There are realistically only four areas that are in the race for one of the first three locations to be chosen, and Osaka is among them. Should it be selected, MGM Resorts International is guaranteed to lead the charge, as its partnership with Japanese firm ORIX is the only candidate being considered. Local media outlet Sankei has an idea of how much the consortium is willing to spend, too, indicating that its proposal carries a budget of at least $9 billion.
MGM Has Big Plans for Osaka
Nagasaki, Osaka, Wakayama and Yokohama are the frontrunners to host an IR in the first round of three that will be approved. There is also Tokyo, but serious questions have surfaced over its possibilities to continue. The MGM-led consortium is expected to present its full and final proposal to Osaka tomorrow and is reportedly not afraid to open the wallet, despite not having any idea how successful the endeavor might be. $9.09 billion (1 trillion yen) will be spent on the property, with another $182 million being allocated to improve local infrastructure. Since the initial discussions of offering casino resorts in Japan emerged, it has been indicated that any company serious about securing approval would need to spend around $10 billion.
Osaka, like other locations, has had some difficulty developing its IR plans and was forced to delay the process as it dealt with COVID-19 issues. It even offered potential candidates a second chance to submit initial proposals, but no one responded – likely because of the cost – and MGM remained on top. The company and its partners will have more time to organize the project, as well, as an IR in Osaka isn’t likely to be seen before sometime in early 2028. That’s almost a year later than previously expected.
Time to Make a Decision
It’s now time for MGM and its crew to submit their proposal to Osaka, which has a special committee designed to review the submission. It will spend the next several months going over the details of the proposal and is expected to subsequently submit it Japan’s national government by next April. Realistically, the consortium and Osaka officials would have already been in discussion over the proposal, which means there aren’t likely to be many changes, if any, made in the next nine months.
Just because Japan’s IR plans have allotted for three IRs to be built in the first phase, this doesn’t mean that three will be chosen. There are issues that have to be discussed and worked out, and Yokohama and Tokyo are still facing a significant amount of resistance to the idea of legalized casinos. As much as Japan has tried to develop a framework that would be as clean and appealing as possible, the embarrassing bribery scandal involving Tsukasa Akimoto cast a very black cloud over the budding casino industry. Akimoto had accepted bribes from a Chinese company, 500.com, looking to enter Japan, with gambling opponents highlighting his actions as a sign of the damage casinos would bring.
Looking past Akimoto’s exploits, Japan is still determined to create a casino resort industry that rivals those found in other parts of the world. It believes that, once all of the pieces are in place, the first property could come as early as 2026 or 2027, which means there’s a lot of work to be done in the next five years. The final selections won’t be announced for another year, at the latest, at which time the gambling industry will know exactly how Japan’s casino market will be built.