Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim Spells Out Japan Casino Plans

Posted on: March 31, 2022, 10:47h. 

Last updated on: March 31, 2022, 11:59h.

Bally’s (NYSE:BALY) Chairman Soo Kim is shedding some light on the company’s potential Japan ambitions, saying the operator isn’t planning to immediately throw its hat in the ring to win a gaming license in the country.

Bally's Japan
Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim at the SBC Summit last December. He’s clarifying the company’s position on a Japanese casino. (Image: YouTube)

Kim’s effort to shed light on Bally’s interest in a Japan integrated resort emerged immediately after reports surfaced Wednesday. Those indicated that the company is considering the city of Fukuoka as home to a gaming venue. They added that the operator is optimistic that Japanese policymakers will consider additional bids following the April 28 national deadline for submitting casino-resort proposals.

In an interview with Inside Asian Gaming, Kim expressed surprise local media interpreted the company’s visit to Fukuoka as a sign Bally’s is imminently planning to bid for a gaming venue there.

This was the first time we were in Fukuoka [and it was] purely to understand where the process stands,” Kim told IAG. “There is no commitment around what we think, what project we would ultimately support, or even what our involvement in that project would be.”

Previously, Fukuoka — Japan’s sixth-largest city — had not been mentioned as a potential site for a gaming venue. Last month, mayor Soichiro Takashima said he was not interested in such a venture. The city isn’t far from Nagasaki, bidding for one of Japan’s initial three casino permits.

Bally’s Has Japan Interest

It’s believed Rhode Island-based Bally’s would spend $3.94 billion on a Japanese integrated resort, meaning that if the company moved forward with the project at the price point or close to it, it’d be by far the operator’s priciest endeavor to date.

Due to that price tag and the fact that it’s more than double Bally’s current market capitalization, Bally’s would likely need a partner in Japan to defray some costs – a strategy being employed there by rivals such as Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International. Kim said as much to IAG.

“We think it is an interesting situation where, if you find the right Japanese partner and bring in international expertise from a brand like Bally’s, it has a lot of potential,” he said.

Over the near term, the big issue Bally’s is considering is a recent takeover offer from hedge fund Standard General, which is run by Kim. In January, the investment firm filed an acquisition bid valuing the gaming company at $38 a share, or just over $2 billion.

Where Bally’s Could Fit In Over Near-Term

Kim left some wiggle room for Bally’s to rapidly change course if national policymakers rejected the Nagasaki proposal and immediately sought a replacement effort.

In acknowledging IAG that his company is interested in Japan, he added, “It’s a possibility” Bally’s could get involved over the near term if the Nagasaki pitch is rejected and the bidding process is reopened.

While cost estimates for a Nagasaki casino resort are soaring, that doesn’t mean the bid is weak or that officials will reject the proposal.