The Osaka Prefecture government announced today that its request-for-proposal period for a potential integrated casino resort will run through April 6. Currently, only MGM Resorts has submitted a qualifying scheme.
Osaka is one of the leading candidate cities for one of Japan’s three forthcoming integrated resorts (IR). Originally the deadline for consortiums to present casino tenders was July. Officials in Japan’s third-largest city by population are apparently looking to set a more expedient schedule for its IR ambitions.
Cities and prefectures across Japan are fielding proposals from interested casino parties. Once each region selects a winning bidder, they will make their cases to the national government in Tokyo. A special committee in the National Diet will decide which three presentations will receive gaming licenses.
MGM Resorts has long targeted Osaka for its casino dreams in Japan. The Nevada-headquartered global gaming company launched a campaign titled “Osaka First” in January of 2019.
Former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren was a strong advocate for the company investing in Osaka. The gaming industry veteran visited Japan in March of 2019 to attend the MLB Opening Series at the Tokyo Dome between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.
MGM Resorts Japan was a leading sponsor of the MLB event.
Of course, few could have imagined what 2020 would bring. COVID-19 prevented MGM from forming the relationships and partnerships in Japan and Osaka it sought. Murren’s replacement, Bill Hornbuckle, told MGM investors last month that the company is still “a believer in Japan.”
However, the company is seeking a reduced role in the IR development. MGM has partnered with Japan-based financial services firm ORIX.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy becoming the sole one standing … in Osaka,” Hornbuckle explained. “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 that intent, and I believe that the government still has the same intent of moving forward.”
Osaka officials saying RFPs should be submitted by early next month seemingly hints that the city is ready to move forward with the MGM/ORIX presentation.
As for specifics, Osaka has stated that casino proposals should initially feature at least 215,000 square feet of convention space, and within 15 years, expand to more than one million square feet. The resort should come with at least 3,000 hotel rooms, and the gaming space should not occupy more than three percent of the resort’s total square footage.