Osaka Partners With MGM For Casino Resort

Buddhika Weerasinghe / Getty Images
– Osaka
A container ship sails near the Yumeshima Island in Osaka, Japan. Osaka prefecture

Japan’s third most populous city, Osaka, is also the name of the prefecture that contains it, and the governments of both have announced they will partner with MGM Resorts International in bidding to build a casino resort. The plan, announced by Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura on September 28 and reported by Kyodo News, will also involve the Japanese financial services company Orix Corporation and cost about 1.08 trillion yen ($9.7 billion). The complex will be located in a landfill area in Osaka Bay and should be completed sometime in the late 2020s, which means not in time for the Osaka International Expo that is scheduled for 2025. 

However, first the plan has to be one of three selected by the central government as the intitial phase in its integrated resort scheme. The bid is also subject to approval by the relevant city and prefectural assemblies before it is formally submitted for application next spring. 
The MGM/Orix consortium is the only bidder for the Osaka project, which is being promoted by the city and prefecture to boost tourism in the Kansai region, Japan’s second largest megalopolis after Tokyo-Yokohama and centered around the areas surrounding Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. Though a number of casino operators were very interested in expanding their business to Japan when the government legalized casinos in 2018, in the meantime bureaucratic delays and the COVID-19 pandemic have dampened some of their eagerness, and several have pulled out of tentative partnerships. Originally, the application period for the bids was to start in January this year, but it was eventually postponed until this month. Bids must be completed and submitted by next April. In Western Japan, Wakayama Prefecture, in partnership with Canada’s Clairvest, and Nagasaki Prefecture, in partnership with Casino Austria International Japan, are also planning to submit applications.
During the press conference to announce the plan, Yoshimura said that the prefecture and the city will create “the world’s best growth-oriented integrated resort” with a plan that is “very ambitious and aggressive.” The planners estimate that an Osaka casino resort would attract about 20.5 million visitors a year from both Japan and abroad and generate annual “economic ripple effects” of 760 billion yen. 
Yokohama withdrew its own bid for an IR in August due to local concerns about organized crime. Tomokomai, in the northernmost island of Hokkaido, was also supposed to submit an application, but the prefectural governor has since said they would not pursue a bid for the time being due to local concerns about the environmental impact.