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Melco shifts Japanese resort ambitions

Sat, Sep 21, 10:49am by Staff Writer

Casino operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment is shifting its Japanese integrated resort ambitions away from Osaka to Yokohama, following the lead of some of its rivals.

Calvin Ayre reported on Wednesday that Melco Resorts and Entertainment chief executive officer Lawrence Ho announced that his company was adopting a “Yokohama first” strategy for its plan to acquire a Japanese integrated resort licence.

Ho said the company is choosing to “focus on creating an integrated resort in Yokohama city the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Ho called Melco Resorts and Entertainment “a suitable partner” that would assist Yokohama in establishing itself as “an international tourist destination.”

Melco Resorts opened an office in Yokohama earlier this month, and its new Yokohama focus means it is abandoning a plan for an integrated resort project in Osaka.

From Osaka to Yokohama

It was only several months ago that Melco unveiled a concept for a 49-hectare project on Osaka’s Yumeshima Island that included six hotels, a water-themed amusement park and a massive Japanese garden.

On Wednesday, Ho thanksed Osaka officials “for their consideration and for constructive dialogues that we have had with them” in the past few years.

But despite these “collaborative discussions”, Ho said Melco’s Japanese ambitions now lay elsewhere.

Ho’s news follows a similar move by rival Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands announced in August that it was ditching its Osaka plans in order to focus on landing an integrated resort licence in either Yokohama or Tokyo.

Philippine casino operator Bloomberry resorts also ditched its Osaka ambitions recently.

Osaka hasn’t totally become Japan’s integrated resorts ugly sister, as MGM Resorts chief executive officer Jim Murren formally adopted an ‘Osaka First’ strategy this spring.

Galaxy Entertainment Group, Genting Singapore and Wynn Resorts are also reportedly still keen on Osaka.

Melco’s news came just as a new survey cast doubt on whether Yokohama’s citizens would welcome an integrated resort in their midst.

The Kanagawa Shumbun and JX Press poll found nearly two-thirds 63.8 per cent of Yokohama residents were opposed to landing an integrated resort, while an even higher majority (72.5 per cent) want the question put to a referendum.

Just 25.7 per cent said they were in favour of welcoming an integrated resort.

Those who favour an integrated resort construction did so mainly because of the revenue it would bring the city, while those opposed fear a downturn in public safety and an increased risk of gambling addiction.

Others simply believe Yokohama had more pressing concerns than building a pleasure palace.

Despite the survey, a Yokohama city council meeting just approved a plan to include US$2.4 million in the city’s fiscal 2019 budget for integrated resort promotion and development.

Yokohama to throw its hat into Japanese casino ring

Yokohama will join the race for the right to host one of Japan’s first casino resorts according to government sources.

Casino News Daily reported last month that the country’s government has authorised the development of up to three integrated resorts that are expected to open in the mid-2020s.

Other Japanese cities and prefectures have already ramped up their efforts to race for the right to host one of the resorts.

Osaka has a plan for a resort on the artificial Yumeshima Island and is considered by many as the frontrunner in the race.

The man-made island was selected, as the site for the 2025 World Expo last year, which is believed will further boost its casino bid.

As Osaka launches its selection process, expect extraordinary competition among at least a half-dozen of the biggest names in gaming, and in this beauty contest, second place won’t even get a bouquet.

“For a successful development, you need a number of things to align: a sufficient population base, including tourists, to feed customers, infrastructure and political support,” MGM Japan CEO Ed Bowers says.

“Osaka has consistently said it wanted integrated resorts. In all jurisdictions across the world, if you don’t get political support, it is extremely difficult for IR development to be successful,” he said.

In January, MGM declared as “Osaka First” strategy and in March, confirmed a partnership with Japanese financial services giant Orix.

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