Osaka Officials Deny Casino Destination on Yumeshima Island Would Be Dangerous Flood Risk

Posted on: October 23, 2018, 06:46h. 

Last updated on: October 23, 2018, 10:01h.

The Japanese City of Osaka is desperate to get its hands on one of three coveted gaming licenses as the country opens itself up to international casino operators, but questions were asked this week about the safety and viability of Osaka’s proposed location, Yumeshima Island.

In September, Typhoon Jebi caused serious flooding to Kansai International Airport and smashed a tanker into the only bridge serving the island. Could proposed casino site Yumeshima be similarly vulnerable? (Image: The Independent)

Yumeshima is a reclaimed landfill island in Osaka Bay, which city officials hope will be transformed by the eventual addition of a gleaming new integrated resort, with hotels, shopping arcades, art galleries, theme parks, and a world-class convention center.

Another part of the island is being reserved for the World Exposition in 2025, for which the city is currently bidding. If all Osaka’s plans for Yumeshima come to fruition, it would take total construction costs to over $7 billion.

But the Japan Times questioned this week whether Yumeshima might be a serious flooding risk. Two months ago, Typhoon Jebi battered Western Japan and smashed a tanker into the only bridge leading to Kansai International Airport, which is also situated on an artificial island in Osaka Bay.

The storm left the island deluged in several feet of water and, with the only exit suddenly cut off, thousands of travelers had to be evacuated in boats.

After the Flood

In the aftermath, Osaka officials denied that Yumeshima could suffer from similar vulnerabilities.

“The island of Yumeshima is higher above sea level than Kansai airport, so there is no problem,” insisted Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui in a tweet. “Yumeshima is nine meters above sea level, so there would be no flooding at all.”

But the Kansai flooding has prompted suggestions that Yumeshima would at least need extra flood barriers if the proposed projects get the go ahead, which raises the question of who will pick up the bill.

Costly Investments in Infrastructure

There is already a need for the city to extend its subway system out to the island, an operation that is expected to cost $600 million. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura has assured any prospective international developer that the city would put up “a large portion” of this cost. But the need to invest in costly infrastructure may count against Osaka in its bid to find a partner.

Or it may not. With just three licenses up for grabs, international operators are desperate to acquire a piece of what analysts predict could quickly become the second-biggest casino market in the world.

Companies like Melco, LVS and MGM have expressed interest in Osaka and have vowed to invest $10 billion or more in the right project. Osaka — as Japan’s second-biggest city — remains a front-runner.