Melco Resorts Japan Presence Expanding, Casino Operator Focused on Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohama

Posted on: September 2, 2019, 01:23h. 

Last updated on: September 2, 2019, 01:23h.

Melco Resorts is upping its presence in Japan, as the company announced that it’s adding a third office to its operations in the country that’s readying to legalize commercial casinos.

Melco Resorts Japan casino resort
Melco Resorts CEO Lawrence Ho – like so many of his chief executive colleagues in the gaming industry – desperately wants to win in Japan. (Image: European Gaming)

In a filing made with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the casino giant revealed it is opening an office in Yokohama, one of just three prefectures that has expressed interest in welcoming one of the integrated resorts (IR).

Japan continues to be the group’s core focus,” the Melco filing explained. “With offices in Tokyo and Osaka and an upcoming one in Yokohama, along with a local leadership team, the group is now fully engaged to explore local partnerships and to further build up our local presence.”

Melco, founded in 2004 by billionaire Lawrence Ho, one of 17 children by Macau’s “King of Gambling” Stanley Ho, operates casinos in the Chinese enclave and in the Philippines.

Japan Competition

Melco Resorts isn’t the only game in town for Japanese officials. The world’s largest casino operators, including Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, Genting Group, Hard Rock, and SJM Holdings, are all readying bids to land one of the licenses.

The official bidding will likely begin sometime next year. For now, CEOs of the frontrunners are making verbal pledges to woo over both federal and local Japanese lawmakers.

“In the past few months, we have released designs of our proposed Osaka integrated resort and participated in the Yokohama’s request-for-information and Osaka’s request-for-concept,” Ho said.

The casino magnate added that he believes Melco is in a “strong position to be a partner” with local businesses interested in “Japan’s journey” into the commercial gaming industry. Ho said Melco is focused on a “unique Japanese touch” for its property.

Where We Stand

Melco isn’t tipping its hand as to where it wishes most to invest. That’s likely because its odds are longer of obtaining licensure than the Sands and MGM, the two frontrunners.

MGM is committed to Osaka, with CEO Jim Murren saying, “We’ve made a decision to focus all of our energy on Osaka.” Sands surprised many last week when the company said it’s focusing not on Osaka, but Tokyo and Yokohama.

Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson explained that his casino empire wants to “target new development opportunities that allow us to maintain our industry-leading returns on invested capital. And we think an investment in Tokyo or Yokohama gives us the best opportunity to do exactly that.”

Sands and MGM both have international experience operating casino resorts. Marina Bay Sands in Singapore has become the gold standard of the IR business, which is why the company is considered the odds-on favorite for licensure in Japan.

Japan is doing everything in its power to make sure its legalizing of casinos doesn’t create societal harm.

Ho’s father’s alleged links to Asian triad crime networks could present a problem for his Melco winning one of the three IR opportunities. His relationship with his father is currently being probed by officials in Australia, as Melco seeks to acquire a 19.9 percent stake in operator Crown Resorts.