Melco Resorts & Entertainment Chairman Lawrence Ho has vowed to do “whatever it takes” in order to get into the Japanese casino market when it opens.
That commitment now includes a pledge to move the company’s headquarters to Japan should it receive a license to operate in the country.
That promise came as Ho visited Tokyo with a group of Melco executives. The visit followed similar visits by executives from Las Vegas Sands and MGM, as many of the world’s gaming giants hope to capitalize on the first opportunities to target perhaps the largest untapped casino market in the world.
“I would personally move here while we are building it, and we would move the core management team and headquarters here,” Ho said during an interview in Tokyo.
Gaming Firms Jockey for Position in Japan
The move is part of an all-out effort by several firms to gain a foothold in the Japanese market. The Japanese legislature passed a bill last year to legalize and regulate casino gambling in principle, and is expected to pass a second bill that would set the terms for integrated resorts sometime in 2018.
Once that happens, the race will be on to grab a piece of what many believe will be two initial licenses, possibly in Osaka and Yokohama. Analysts have predicted that Japan could eventually generate as much as $25 billion in gaming revenue annually, with MGM and Las Vegas Sands each saying they would be willing to spend as much as $10 billion on a resort in the country.
Ho has said that he would be willing to outspend his rivals in order to secure a bid. Melco could also partner with local firms to solidify their efforts, though the company would want to keep as large a stake in the project as possible.
“We already have had discussions with Japanese financial institutions that would be interested to be part of a financing group,” Ho said, though he did not name any specific banks.
Melco Promises Technological Innovation at Japanese Resort
Beyond simply outspending the competition, Melco has made a range of proposals designed to be attractive to the Japanese government. Moving the company headquarters to Japan is a major one, but the firm has also emphasized the advanced technologies it would be willing to incorporate in its resort.
On Thursday, Melco announced that it hoped to run a fully-integrated biometric intelligence system in a future Japanese resort, one that would be fully accessible to the Japanese government free of charge.
“Integrated throughout the entire property will be the world’s most advanced facial recognition technology for enabling responsible gaming and security,” Melco said in a press release. The company also says that their concept for an integrated resort, known as “The City of the Future,” would feature a futuristic façade and would be energy-neutral.
“The City of the Future will make its surroundings even better,” Ho said. “It will cultivate sustainable local consumption. And it will attract the most valuable type of tourism – mass luxury.”
Assuming a regulatory bill passes in Japan in 2018, the first casinos are expected to open in the country no earlier than 2023.