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Melco a leading contender for Yokohama casino

Wed, Sep 4, 1:50pm by Staff Writer

Melco Resorts is upping its presence in Japan, as the company announced that it’s adding a third office to its operations in the country that’s readying to legalise commercial reasons. reports that in a filing made with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the casino giant revealed it is opening an office in Yokohama, one of just three prefectures that has expressed interest in welcoming one of the integrated resorts.

“Japan counties to be the group’s core focus,” the Melco filing explained.

“With offices in Tokyo and Osaka and an upcoming one in Yokohama, along with a local leadership team, the group is now fully engaged to explore local partnerships and to further build up our local presence.”

Melco, founded in 2004 by billionaire Lawrence Ho, one of 17 children by Macau’s “King of Gambling” Stanley Ho, operates casinos in the Chinese enclave and in the Philippines.

Melco Resorts isn’t the only game in town for Japanese officials.

The world’s largest casino operators, including Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, Genting Group, Hard Rock, and SJM Holdings, are all readying bids to land one of the licences.

The official bidding will likely begin sometime next year.

For now, CEOs of the frontrunners are making verbal pledges to woo over both federal and local Japanese lawmakers.

“In the past few months, we have released designs of our proposed Osaka integrated resort and participated in the Yokohama’s request-for-information and Osaka’s request-for-concept,” Ho said.

The casino magnate added that he believes Melco is in a “strong position to be a partner” with local businesses interested in “Japan’s journey” into the commercial gaming industry.

Ho said Melco is focused on a “unique Japanese touch” for its property.

Melco isn’t tipping its hand as to where it wishes most to invest. That’s likely because its odds are longer of obtaining licensure than the Sands and MGM, the two frontrunners.

MGM is committed to Osaka, with chief executive officer Jim Murren saying, “We’ve made a decision to focus all of our energy on Osaka,”

Sands surprised many last week when the company said it’s focusing not in Osaka, but Tokyo and Yokohama.

Sands chief executive officer Sheldon Adelson explained that his casino empire wants to “target new development opportunities that allow us to maintain our industry-leading returns on invested capital. And we think an investment in Tokyo or Yokohama gives us the best opportunity to do exactly that.”

Sands and MGM both have international experience operating casino resorts.

Marina Bay Sands in Singapore has become the gold standard of integrated resort business, which is why the company is considered the odds-on favourite for licensure in Japan.

Japan is doing everything in its power to make sure its legalizing of casinos doesn’t create societal harm.

Ho’s father has alleged links to Asian triad crime networks, which could present a problem for his Melco winning one of the three integrated resort opportunities.

His relationship with his father is currently being probed by officials in Australia, as Melco seeks to acquire a 19.9 per cent stake in operator Crown Resorts.

Yokohama not sold on a future casino

The Yokohama Port Harbour Resort Association, a new group based at Yamashita Pier made up of business operators in the bay, held a founding meeting in Yokohama on Monday where it announced a redevelopment plan that does not include a casino.

Asgam is reporting the redevelopment would boast an international exhibition hall and luxury hotel, while an F1 racing circuit track is also scheduled.

The total investment is expected to be 780 billion Japanese Yen, according to the Nikkei.

The association’s redevelopment aims to be a MICE bid with an international conference and exhibition hall as its focus.

Annual profit is forecast to be JPY45 billion with a concert hall and a harbour for cruise boats as part of the facility.

Whatever the calculations behind those numbers are, there is an emphasis that this can be a profitable facility without the casino element.

The presentation was addressed to Yokohama mayor Fumiko Hayashi and titled “Opinions and hopes for Yamashita Pier redevelopment.”

The documentation included the line, “We have grave misgivings surround the casino business and the redevelopment of Yamashita Pier.”

The Yokohama Port Association, chaired by Yukio Fujiki, comprises 244 port operators in Yokohama.

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