MGM Still Lone Wolf in Osaka Integrated Resort Bidding Process

Posted on: April 6, 2021, 10:21h. 

Last updated on: April 6, 2021, 12:17h.

Last month, the Osaka Prefecture government announced that April 6 is the deadline for companies to submit request-for-proposal (RFP) to potentially bid on an integrated resort in Japan’s third-largest city.

MGM Osaka
Shoppers walk through a market in Osaka. MGM remains the lone gaming company looking to bring a casino to that city. (Image: Japan Times)

That deadline came and went with MGM Resorts International and partner Orix remaining as the lone party interested in bringing a gaming venue to the city. Osaka officials previously said other consortiums could enter the fray up to the April 6 deadline. But local leaders didn’t overtly woo other gaming companies.

That could be a sign authorities there are pleased with the MGM-Orix proposal and ready to move forward. Orix, a Japanese financial services firm, is slated to be the majority partner. That defrays some of the costs MGM would encounter if going it alone in Japan. But it also limits the gaming giant’s upside potential in the country.

The company uses a similar structure in Macau, where it controls 56 percent of its MGM China unit, which was founded by Pansy Ho.

MGM Osaka Result Not Surprising

The MGM-Orix group has long been viewed as the leader in the Osaka integrated resort competition. That’s because it has long been the only contender.

Previously, Asia-Pacific gaming behemoths Galaxy Entertainment and Genting Singapore expressed interest in the Japanese city. But by early 2020, both operators were out of the Osaka fray, instead opting to focus on Yokohama.

Either would have been formidable competitors for MGM. Galaxy is one of the largest operators in Macau. Genting has own its advantages. It operates Resorts World Sentosa — one of Singapore’s two integrated resorts. Japanese officials previously said they’re hopeful their country will successfully emulate the city-state’s gaming model of a limited number of properties that are known to be clean, high-end destinations adept at luring international tourists.

What’s Next for Japanese Gaming

While it’s clear MGM-Orix has the Osaka field to itself, that’s not a guarantee of ultimate success. After the Japanese cities wanting to be homes to gaming venues select operator partners, the next step is to bring proposals to the federal government.

From there, officials will grant three gaming permits, and it’s not yet clear where Osaka falls in that pecking order. The city faces credible challenges from Yokohama and Nagasaki.

Operators and local officials alike could be thrown curveballs if Tokyo decides to enter the mix. There’s some speculation to that effect, with analysts saying the largest Japanese city could mull an integrated resort after it hosts the Summer Olympics later this year.

Tokyo entering the competition could lure companies that previously scrapped Japan plans back to the party. It could also affect Yokohama more than other competing areas. For its part, MGM has long been intent on bringing a casino-resort to Osaka. Now, it’s simply a matter of the city getting approval to host such a venue.