JapanLas Vegas Sands Corp drops Osaka, focusing instead on Tokyo and Yokohama as potential sites

Race to build Japan’s casino resorts heats up

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Japan passed a law last year that allows a maximum of three locations where casino resorts may be built.
Japan passed a law last year that allows a maximum of three locations where casino resorts may be built. Photo Credit: tarras79/Getty Images
Osaka, long viewed as the most probably location for Japan’s first casino resort, has attracted partners MGM Resorts International and Orix Corp, who have declared an Osaka-first strategy, and operators such as Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Galaxy.

Las Vegas Sands Corp, one of the contenders vying to open Japan’s first casino, said on Thursday that it will shift its focus to Tokyo and Yokohama areas as potential locations.

Sands said it is no longer considering Osaka--long seen as the location where the country’s first casino may open. A maximum of three locations will be allowed under a law passed last year.

The announcement comes hours after Yokohama announce it is seeking proposals for an integrated resort to be built on Yamashita Pier, Bloomberg reported.

Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. also issued a statement saying it is pleased with the progress in the Japanese market.

Casino operations have descended on Japan in recent years, attempting to win over the public, and national and local politicians since the country passed laws that legalise casino gambling and conditions for the building of resorts.

Osaka, long viewed as the most probably location for Japan’s first casino resort, has attracted partners MGM Resorts International and Orix Corp, who have declared an Osaka-first strategy, and operators such as Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Galaxy.

MGM Resorts said in a statement Thursday it is “deeply committed” to Osaka. Wynn said separately that while there are numerous areas in Japan that are attractive, the demographics of the Tokyo Bay area, which includes Yokohama, “make that market particularly appealing.”

But it will take years before the first resorts open doors, as regulation around selection of sites is still a work in progress.

Officials aim to have a casino built on Yumeshima Island in Osaka in time for a World Expo to be held there in 2025. The island, in a more remote location than the ones being considered in Tokyo and Yokohama, would mean extensive construction of hotels and other non-casino amenities.

Focusing on a potential site near Tokyo will help Sands maintain its returns to investors, Chairman Sheldon Adelson said in a statement Thursday. “We think an investment in Tokyo or Yokohama gives us the best opportunity to do exactly that.”


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