Melco Resorts Abandons Osaka, Plans to Build World’s Best Integrated Resort in Yokohama

Posted on: September 19, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: September 18, 2019, 04:28h.

Casino operator Melco Resorts announced today that it is vacating efforts to win licensure in Osaka, Japan, and is instead committing its energies to building an integrated resort (IR) in Yokohama.

Melco Resorts Japan casino license
Melco Resorts CEO Lawrence Ho believes the odds are in his favor when it comes to Yokohama. (Image: Asia Gaming Brief)

Melco – one of six licensed casino operators in Macau – is thought to be on the shortlist of candidates to win one of the three forthcoming casino licenses in Japan. Led by founder Lawrence Ho, the billionaire says the country’s second-largest city by population is now its preferred destination.

Melco has been a long-time supporter of Yokohama’s suitability to host one of Japan’s first integrated resorts,” a Melco Resort statement read. “The city’s convenient location, communication links, vibrancy and pioneering spirit make it an ideal candidate for a large-scale development designed specifically for premium international tourists.”

Mimicking MGM Resorts’ “Osaka First” policy, Melco announced its own “Yokohama First” strategy. “‘Yokohama First’ means that the incredible team of experts and talents we have assembled will focus on bringing to Yokohama the best IR the world has ever seen,” Ho said.

With its announcement this week, Melco says it will no longer participate in a request for proposals (RFP) in any city other than Yokohama.

Bidders Lining Up

The world’s largest casino entities have been waiting not-so-patiently for Japan to finalize its regulatory conditions that will govern its gaming industry.

Upon maturation, Japan’s three casinos are expected to create the world’s second-largest gaming market, behind only China’s Macau (some analysts believe Nevada and Las Vegas will retain its No. 2 ranking). With the commencing of the formal licensing process close, it’s finally becoming clearer where the major players stand.

MGM and Las Vegas Sands are the consensus frontrunners, and were both initially focused on Osaka. Sands altered its position last month, saying the company is now dedicated to winning licensure in either Tokyo or Yokohama.

Sands, and now Melco’s departure from Osaka, only betters MGM’s odds for the country’s second-largest metropolis. MGM CEO Jim Murren expects Osaka to be the first city issued an IR license, as both federal and regional prefecture lawmakers would like to have the casino resort open in time for the area’s hosting of the 2025 World Expo.

Wynn Resorts has also pledged to build the “world’s largest” IR in Japan, and finds Osaka, Yokohama, and Tokyo attractive. However, Osaka is its ideal locale, as it’s “the most active city” in the casino bidding process, according to Wynn Resorts Japan President Chris Gordon.

Licensing Process

Along with Melco, Sands, MGM, and Wynn, a few other casino operators in the running for one of the Japan licenses are Galaxy Entertainment, Genting, and Hard Rock.

Candidate cities and their host prefectures will accept proposals from interested casino operators partnered with Japanese companies by way of consortiums. Once the winning scheme is identified, the prefecture will petition the federal government for one of the gaming concessions.

The four-person Japan Casino Administration Committee will be in charge of “casino licensing and operator oversight.” Supported by a staff of 100 federal workers, the committee will base its decisions off the casino Fundamental Policy that has been developed by the National Diet.