Osaka Considering Leasing Land Pitched For Integrated Resort, Not Selling it to Operators

Posted on: October 22, 2019, 10:19h. 

Last updated on: October 22, 2019, 11:52h.

Osaka, one of the Japanese cities leading the competition there to become home to an integrated resort, is considering leasing land to the gaming company selected to operate the venue rather than selling the property outright.

Gaming companies wanting to operate in Osaka may save on buying land if the mayor’s proposal is approved. (Image: Time Travel Turtle)

Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city behind Tokyo and Yokohama, wants an integrated resort to be located in Yumeshima in Osaka Bay. Mayor Ichiro Matsui believes there are advantages to the city retaining ownership of the land, particularly if the operator selected for the project struggles there or encounters financial difficulties in other regions.

In the event the operator has business troubles because of failure in other regions or operations, Osaka (city/prefecture) would remain silent if the operator owned the land,” said Matsui, according to Inside Asian Gaming (IAG). “However, if the land is being rented, we will be free to seek out a different operator, direct the overall town building on Yumeshima, and rebuild.”

Gaming industry leases are typically lengthy. For example, in its recent sale of the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip to Blackstone, MGM Resorts International agreed to lease back that property with an initial term of 30 years.

Matsui believes his city can, over time, generate more revenue from renting land to a gaming company than it would garner in a one-time sale of the property.

One Bidder Could Like The Idea

In recent months, some major gaming companies, including Las Vegas Sands, Melco Resorts and Wynn Resorts, have dropped Osaka plans with the intent of focusing their Japan efforts on Tokyo and Yokohama.

Currently, the Osaka race consists of MGM, Galaxy Entertainment Group, and Genting Singapore. Las Vegas-based MGM, which is seen as the leader in the Osaka integrated resort fray, has been steadfast in its commitment to that metropolitan area, and could be enthusiastic about the idea of not having to make a major property purchase to make its Japan ambitions come to life.

Recent sales of the Bellagio and Circus Circus cement MGM CEO Jim Murren’s desire to move the company toward an asset-light model, and with some analysts forecasting $10 billion to $15 billion in construction costs for a Japan casino-resort, regardless of the city it’s located in, reducing property expenditures could be compelling to MGM as the company looks to bolster its finances.

Assuming Osaka is one of the regions that lands an integrated resort, officials there will likely push the selected operator to have the venue open and functional by late 2024, because the city hosts the World Expo in mid-2025.

Fair Costs

In the IAG interview, Mayor Matsui said the Yumeshima land would generate $554 million in a one-off sale, far less than the $4.2 billion Blackstone is shelling out for Bellagio’s real estate assets and well below the $825 million MGM is getting for Circus Circus.

Matsui envisions a gaming company paying $23 million annually on a 30-year lease, or $690 million. Assuming such an accord is reached, the mayor’s expectation that leasing the land is better for Osaka than a sale would prove accurate.