MGM Japan, an integrated casino resort that could cost as much as $10 billion, will open sometime around 2025. That’s the word according to CEO Jim Murren, at least, who provided details on the licensing process and timeframe for his company’s resort should MGM be receive one of two available gaming licenses from the Asian country.
Murren’s comments came at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Japan Conference. He said he doesn’t believe licenses will be issued by the Japanese government before 2019.
While explaining that his company’s planned resort would take roughly five years to construct, the casino executive also revealed that license recipients will almost certainly enter into partnerships with “Japanese-led” companies.
“We commit to being a good partner to Japanese companies in a Japanese-led integrated resort (IR) consortium,” Murren told conference attendees, as reported by GGRAsia. He added that MGM’s “proven track record of being a trusted, dependable partner” in foreign markets makes the Nevada-based company a leading contender for a license.
Japan’s legislative body, the National Diet, will soon begin finalizing regulations for the forthcoming legalization of gambling in the 11th most-populated country in the world. The Integrated Resort Implementation Bill will be crafted during this fall’s parliamentary session, and released to the public in December.
The Diet has remained tight-lipped on what those laws might entail. Few details have been leaked, though plenty of rumors have surfaced.
It’s presumed that the winning companies will be mandated to partner with local Japanese companies. What stake they’ll control, however, remains unknown. MGM entered into a 50-50 partnership with billionaire Pansy Ho for the $1.25 billion MGM Macau resort in China’s special gaming enclave.
Many believe Japan will restrict casino floors to 15,000 square meters (about 161,458 square feet), effectively tax mass market gaming at 22 percent and VIP play at 12 percent, and set the gambling age at 20. Politicians are also considering a costly entrance fee on Japanese citizens in an effort to curb what they see as the potential for problem gambling to develop.
The relatively small anticipated casino space allotments (The Venetian Macau is 546,000 square feet), paired with that entry fee on locals that could be as much as $100 per visit, has potential bidders disgruntled.
Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire tycoon who controls Las Vegas Sands, is the other frontrunner for a casino license in Japan. The “Casino Emperor,” as Japanese media outlets are referring to him, recently visited the country to get an up-close look at the approaching gaming market there. He didn’t much like what he saw, and has never been known to mince words.
Adelson criticized the rumored regulations, telling news media that it will restrict companies from building “the best kind of IR.” The 84-year-old threatened that Sands would only be willing to invest $4-5 billion under the expected law, half of its initial pledge under more fully liberalized conditions.
In December, the Diet will also unveil where the casinos will be placed. Osaka, Tokyo, and Yokohama are considered the odds-on favorites.