MGM Resorts Gets Spotlight in Japan With 2019 MLB Season Openers in Tokyo

Posted on: March 12, 2019, 10:02h. 

Last updated on: March 12, 2019, 10:02h.

MGM Resorts will have the spotlight in Japan later this month, as the Las Vegas-based casino operator is the title sponsor for Major League Baseball’s 2019 opening series being played in Tokyo.

MGM Resorts MLB opening day
MLB baseball returns to Japan this month for the first time since 2012, and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time for MGM Resorts. (Image: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)

The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s will officially get the MLB season underway on March 20. They’ll play again the following day in the two-game series before returning stateside.

Along with being the title sponsor for the 2019 MLB Opening Series at the Tokyo Dome, the A’s will don a patch on their uniforms reading “MGM Resorts Japan.” Along with the two official games that will count towards their regular season records, Seattle and Oakland will each play two other games against Japanese professional baseball teams the Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

MGM Resorts will have a great opportunity to engage with and experience the extraordinary passion of baseball fans in Japan,” MLB Executive VP of Commerce Noah Garden explained.

MLB and MGM signed a historic partnership last fall that made the casino giant the league’s “official gaming partner.”

Betting Big in Japan

The global gaming industry remains fixated on developments in Japan. At the request of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a special committee in the National Diet is crafting regulations that will govern the forthcoming commercial integrated casino resorts.

A wealthy nation home to nearly 130 million people, and economic analysts have forecasted that the expected three IR properties could generate annual gross gaming revenues (GGR) as high as $16 billion.

It’s why MGM and others are actively pursuing licensure, as should those GGR estimates be realized, Japan’s gaming industry would become the second richest on the planet behind only Macau.

MGM and Las Vegas Sands – thought to be the two frontrunners for licensure – are fixated on Osaka, one of just three prefectures that has expressed interest in allowing a casino to be built. Reuters said this week that Osaka’s tourism industry grew five-fold between 2012 and 2017.

“Compared to Tokyo, Osaka is positioned for longer and more sustainable growth in development and tourism because of things like the integrated resort,” CBRE Osaka Director of Research Takeshi Yamaguchi explained.

Japan Baseball

Baseball has for many years been the most popular sport in Japan. But in recent years, rigorous baseball programs ran by schools has led to many youngsters opting to forgo participation.

Still, Japan’s Central Research Services says baseball remains the most popular sport, with 48.1 percent of respondents naming it their favorite. Shohei Ohtani, who was poached away from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters by MLB’s Los Angeles Angels in 2017, remains the most popular athlete in Japan.

No player from Japan enjoyed more MLB success than Ichiro Suzuki, who amassed 3,089 hits on a .311 career batting average.

When he stops playing the game for at least five years, he’ll almost certainly be a first-ballot inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There are currently no Japanese-born players in Cooperstown.