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Resort casinos is legal now in Japan

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Resort casinos became legal in Japan in 2018, with three licenses available

MGM Resorts is set to put forth its proposal for a resort casino license in Osaka. It will be submitting its application in conjunction with the ORIX Corporation. The CEO of MGM Resorts Japan, Ed Bowers, announced the news at a media event in Japan’s second city.

The request-for-concept application process in Osaka began on April 25 and will be open until May 24. Bowers did not give any details as to the content of the proposal. He did say that MGM’s partnership with ORIX is not exclusive. The company expects other corporations from the city to get on board for the project as minority partners.

Japan’s long resistance to gambling crumbled in 2016, when the government legalized casinos after more than 15 years of debate on the issue. Towards the end of the 2018 legislative session, resort casinos also became legal.

The government is to offer three licenses for resort casino. This will position Japan as a major player in the gambling scene in Asia. 

Naturally, global casino operators are showing a lot of interest in the three resort casino licenses. They will be extremely lucrative operations, which means the bidding process is likely to be very competitive.

Osaka’s resort casino

Although no licenses have yet been awarded, Osaka is practically guaranteed to receive one. The city is a tourist hotspot and will be playing host to the World Expo in 2025, which will see a massive influx of visitors into the region.

The metropolitan authority is already looking at potential partners to develop and operate the resort casino in the region. The aim is to have the resort casino open by 2024 and the city hopes it will draw as many as 25 million visitors per year. Of these, 19 million would not be gamblers but would come to enjoy the  resort and its on-site entertainment facilities.

MGM and the Osaka license

MGM Resorts is constantly looking to expand its global profile. It sees the Osaka opportunity as the ideal vehicle to cement the company in the core of the Asian market. Its main casino facility in Asia currently is the MGM China in Macau.

The company has made significant moves in anticipation of bidding for the Osaka license.

CEO Jim Murren spoke about this when he was delivering the most recent full-year earnings report for the company. He said: “We just recently opened up an office in Osaka. We’ve committed now to the mayor and to the governor of Osaka. MGM has adopted an Osaka-first strategy. We are focusing our considerable resources on Osaka.

Expectations are that Osaka will officially get approval for the license at the beginning of 2020. As part of MGM’s strategy to obtain this license, it has hired former Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval. He will be heading up MGM’s Japanese expansion team.

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