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MGM Resorts is Revealed as One of Japan’s First Ever Casino Partners

Flags of USA and JapanThe Japanese government is pressing ahead with their plans to turn the country into a casino destination of choice, and one of its cities has selected their first partner to get the project up and running.

MGM Resorts, fresh from their acquisition of The Cosmopolitan on the Las Vegas strip, will be the first firm to break ground in the city of Osaka alongside their joint venture partner ORIX.

It probably shouldn’t have come as a great surprise that MGM ‘won’ the contract – they were the only bidder in the city, which is one of only four prefectures that will apply for the highly sought-after three licences that will allow legal casino gaming in Japan.

It’s all a numbers game for the lengthily-titled Osaka Yumeshima Integrated Resort Project, which will cost $10 billion build on the water’s edge of Yumeshima island. The site will play host to 2,500 guest rooms, create 15,000 new jobs in the area and attract more than 20 million visitors annually once travel restrictions are lifted.

“It is an honour to be selected as Osaka’s partner in developing an integrated resort,” said Bill Hornbuckle, the CEO and president of MGM Resorts.

“I commend the city in undertaking a comprehensive and thoughtful process to meet its goal of developing a world-class integrated resort in Osaka.

“We will work closely with prefectural/city municipal governments to deliver an iconic, uniquely Japanese destination warranting Osaka’s selection as home to one of Japan’s first integrated resorts.”

Land of the Rising Sun

Osaka at Night

It was back in 2018 that the wheels were put in motion for Japan to become a casino destination.

The Integrated Resort Implementation Act has made it possible for prefectures to apply for a licence to become a recognised gambling location, although for now only three of those licences will be approved by the Japanese government.

The application process will come to an end in 2022, by which point ministers will have selected which of the zones will be granted permission to break ground on their various projects. If successful, MGM believe their Osaka property will be open for business in the second half of the 2020s.

A number of other prefectures are believed to be interested in becoming a casino destination, with Wakayama and Nagasaki amongst the first to put their hands up. They have selected their operational partners following a tendering process, with Clairvest – a private equity firm in Canada – and Casino Austria International Japan selected to run the resorts should they be given the green light.

However, one region that won’t be playing host to a casino resort is Yokahama. Japan’s second city has withdrawn its application after protests about the social costs of gambling in the area.

Meanwhile, plans for a casino near to New Chitose Airport have also hit the skids. A petition of more than 20,000 names was submitted to the Tomakomai government rejecting the plan, which opponents believe would have a detrimental effect on Lake Utonai and the surrounding wildlife sanctuary, which is one of the few internationally-recognised wetlands in Japan.