Osaka IR Process Further Delayed Due to Travel Restrictions

Osaka officials have decided to push back the deadline for the prefecture’s request-for-proposal (RFP) regarding the selection of a private sector partner, Mayor Ichiro Matsui announced Thursday, pointing out the restrictions for business travel imposed by the virus-containing measures as the reason for the delay.

From 2025 to 2028

In March, Osaka prefecture changed its IR draft implementation policy and requirements for RFP applicants, by pushing back the deadline for application submissions to July. In April Mayor Matsui was quoted by several news outlets, expressing serious concerns regarding another possible setback, and now this deadline has been moved by another 6 months, to January 2021.

As per the new timetable, Osaka may not be able to open up a casino resort before 2028, provided it is granted one of the three available slots nationwide. Initially, the prefecture was targeting an opening date before the World Expo 2025.

Despite that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the emergency order on Osaka 2 weeks ago, prefecture officials lost a lot of time being unable to meet with representatives from its only candidate, the consortium between MGM Resorts’ Japanese subsidiary and Japan-based financial services group, Orix. Besides, the candidate to build the integrated casino resort asked for a short extension of its own, Mayor Ichiro Matsui pointed out, acknowledging the operator’s investment capacity had taken a blow.

Private Sector Candidate Does Not Mind

The announced delay was found reasonable by MGM, confirming the inability of its team to travel for meeting with Osaka officials. The Las Vegas-based casino operator expressed its determination to continue, together with its Japanese partner, the pursuit for a casino resort in Osaka within the timelines outlined by the Mayor.

“We remain fully committed to our partnership with Orix and are actively working on our proposal in response to Osaka’s RFP to realise a world class integrated resort in Osaka during the timing Mayor Matsui indicated.”

Spokesperson, MGM Resorts Japan

Central Government May Also Introduce Delays

Matsui even speculated that the central government was considering extending the period for local governments to apply for the three casino licenses. As of June, there is still no publication of Japan’s IR Fundamental Policy, despite original expectations for it to appear by January, fuelling speculations the government is pondering on delays. So far, Japanese Government is expected to begin accepting local governments’ applications January 4, 2021 with a deadline of July 30, 2021.

The whole IR idea took a major blow earlier in May, when the biggest casino operator worldwide, Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, surprisingly dropped the pursuit for a Japanese casino resort, despite initially pledging to invest up to $10 billion. The decision formally cited the duration of the lease, but also raised serious questions regarding the viability of the IR project itself, especially with regards to current developments in the casino industry, where its major jurisdiction, Macau, is sinking faster than Titanic after meeting with an iceberg.

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