Japan Casino Candidate Osaka Has Emergency Order Lifted

Posted on: May 21, 2020, 10:15h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2020, 12:05h.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lifted his emergency order on Osaka, a leading candidate city for one of the country’s three integrated resort (IR) casinos.

Japan casino Osaka integrated resort
Life in Osaka, Japan, is returning to some sense of normal following an emergency shutdown because of the coronavirus. (Image: Japan National Tourism Organization)

Abe’s national emergency is to run through the end of this month, but his administration began lifting the decree early on numerous prefectures, as cases of the coronavirus slowed. The Osaka Prefecture has reported less than 0.5 cases per 100,000 people in recent days.

In the areas where the emergency has been lifted, social and economic activities can increase,” said Abe today. “The challenge of creating a new normal is beginning across the country.”

Of Japan’s 47 prefectures, 42 have now been removed from the national emergency declaration. The remaining included prefectures are Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Hokkaido.

No Gambling on Coronavirus

Japan’s government is taking a careful approach to COVID-19. Abe has mandated that only prefectures reporting new infections below 0.5 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period can be removed from the emergency order. For the Tokyo capital, that means no more than 70 new positive coronavirus test results can be reported in a given week.

The Asian nation is meeting that stringent regulation, and that’s good news for prefectures and cities interested in welcoming one of the three IR casinos.

Osaka is the odds-on favorite to be awarded the first license. MGM Resorts has partnered with the port city, which is the second-largest metro in Japan.

Despite Japan going on lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, gaming analysts do not believe the process of issuing the casino licenses will be delayed. Joji Kokuryo of Bay City Ventures says the deadline for implementation of the IR law remains July 26, 2020.

Along with Osaka, other prefectures that have publicly stated their IR interest are Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Wakayama. Tokyo is also expected to enter the race, though Kokuryo explains that might not happen “until a next round in future years.”

Sands Exit Causes Stir

Las Vegas Sands unexpectedly dropped out of the Japan IR race a week ago. Sands was viewed as nearly a sure thing for one of the three licenses, the casino giant operating integrated resorts in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore.

Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson took issue with Japan’s policy framework, saying it resulted in an unattractive opportunity. While Sands’ exit was a blow to Japan, it could be good news for remaining bidders, including Melco Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, Hard Rock, and Genting Group, to name a few.

Melco, now viewed as a frontrunner, has a large share of the Asian gaming market. The company has properties in Macau, Philippines, and soon, Cyprus. Like Sands was before dropping out, Melco is focused on building an IR in Yokohama.

Melco billionaire CEO Lawrence Ho says the company remains committed to Japan despite the economic setback of the coronavirus. “We’ve been working on Japan for a very long time, 15 years, and we continue to think that outside of Macau, Yokohama remains the most attractive IR destination,” Ho said last week.