Unidentified Operator Advances in Yokohama Casino RFP Process

Posted on: February 17, 2021, 12:58h. 

Last updated on: February 17, 2021, 02:48h.

The Japanese city of Yokohama said Tuesday one company already met early qualification standards for an integrated resort bid.

Yokohama RFP
Yokohama Bay, seen here. The city is moving along in its ambitions to land a gaming venue. (Image: Business Yokohama)

Japan’s second-largest city started accepting pre-screening applications from interested parties on Feb. 5 for a process that will run through May 17. Yokohama is aiming to give bidders results within 15 days of submission in procedures that will last through May 31.

The early screening is used to determine suitability for a company to pursue engaging in the city’s more comprehensive request for proposal (RFP) process. Officials did not identify the entity that’s advancing to the next stage, nor did they mention if it’s a gaming operator or consortium looking to break into the casino business.

Parties advancing in the early stages will engage with Yokohama officials and then submit more detailed screening packages prior to potentially moving on to the RFP process.

Who’s In, Who’s Out

In 2018, Japanese lawmakers approved the idea of three integrated resorts in the country. Soon after, Yokohama emerged as a contender for one of the initial trio of gaming permits because of its status as the second-largest city behind only Tokyo.

That status was a primary reason why seven gaming companies quickly voiced interest in developing an integrated resort in the city. However, that number has been pared. It recently became clear that Wynn Resorts will sit out the initial Yokohama RFP process.

Last May, Las Vegas Sands abandoned its Japan ambitions, with the late Sheldon Adelson saying at the time, “The framework around the development of an IR has made our goals there unreachable.” LVS was also focusing on Yokohama prior to dropping its Japan efforts.

As for the companies still interested in the city, the roster remains star-studded and includes Galaxy Entertainment Group, Genting Singapore, Melco Resorts & Entertainment — all of which have deep experience running integrated resorts in the Asia-Pacific region — and Japan’s Sega Sammy.

Details and Timeline

Predictably, Yokohama officials are requiring bidders to include plans for a casino and hotel in the RFPs, with the stipulation that the gaming area cannot occupy more than three percent of the venue’s total square footage.

There are some other quirky demands, including “an elegant interior,” dress codes, a palatial feel, and “extraordinary experience.”

For operators, that’s the easy part. The hard part is likely to cost. Previously, companies and analysts estimated $10 billion is the floor for building a high-end gaming venue in Japan, and that the price tag could go as high as $15 billion. In either case, a single Japanese integrated resort will likely be the most expensive gaming property ever constructed.

Yokohama is expected to announce an RFP winner this summer. Even if that timeline is adhered to, it will likely be 2026 or 2027 before the venue opens.