Osaka Concedes Integrated Resort Time Line a Mystery, No Target Date for Casino Opening

Posted on: February 13, 2021, 12:55h. 

Last updated on: February 12, 2021, 04:28h.

Osaka, one of the leading candidate cities for one of Japan’s three casinos, says there is no set time line for the development and opening of the integrated resort (IR).

Osaka Japan integrated resort casino IR
Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, seen here in 2018 discussing the importance of hosting meetings and conventions in the city, is leading the efforts to bring the region an integrated resort. Such a large casino destination would presumably accommodate such business gatherings. (Image: Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau)

When Japan’s National Diet passed its Basic Policy on commercial gambling in 2019, officials in Osaka hoped to have a casino resort up and running in time for the city’s hosting of the 2025 World Expo. 2020 and the COVID-19 global pandemic impeded those ambitions.

Osaka revised its IR time line last year, with a new expectation that the resort would open sometime around 2027 or 2028. But now, leaders in Japan’s third-most populated city say it’s unknown when such a property might be completed.

In the prefecture and city’s latest implementation policy, there is no set target date for an IR opening.

COVID Delaying Japan IRs

Osaka is one of four cities that has publicly announced its IR candidacy. The others are Yokohama, Wakayama, and Nagasaki. Tokyo remains on the sidelines, but is considering an entry.

MGM Resorts is the front-runner to be selected by Osaka as its preferred partner. The Las Vegas-headquartered casino operator has formed a local consortium with ORIX, a financial services firm based in Japan.

During MGM’s 2020 full-year earnings call with investors and analysts this week, MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle confirmed that COVID-19 has greatly interrupted the company’s development plans in Japan.

“We’re a believer in Japan. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy becoming the sole one standing at the gate, if you will, in Osaka,” Hornbuckle said in answering a question regarding the company’s ongoing interest in the Asian country.

We haven’t had our people on the ground there for a better part of nine months. So, it’s going to take some time to rebound. But we have the intent, and I believe that the government still has the same intent of moving forward,” he added.

Hornbuckle expected Osaka’s announcement that there is no longer a concrete time line for the IR. He explained that Osaka has yet to inform MGM regarding the minimum standards and mandatory requirements of IR submissions.

“I think that will be coming out within the next several weeks,” Hornbuckle concluded.

Entain Fold Improves Osaka Odds

MGM Resorts kicked off the new year by going after Entain, the British sports betting and gaming behemoth formerly known as GVC Holdings. MGM offered 0.6 shares of its company for each share of Entain. But the all-equity bid, valued at more than $11 billion, was rejected.

MGM decided not to submit a higher offer. That was welcomed news among Osaka officials, as it allows MGM to be better suited to stay committed to its plans in Japan.

Gaming analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein said acquiring Entain would have likely reduced “MGM’s appetite for a large-scale Japan development.”