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MGM Resorts, Japanese partner submit bid to build Osaka resort

MGM Resorts International has revived plans for a resort in Osaka, Japan, more than a year after the pandemic bumped them to the back burner.

MGM and Japanese financial services company Orix Corp. have submitted a proposal to Osaka government officials to build an integrated resort together, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents submitted Wednesday. The proposal is MGM’s first official bid to achieve its goal of opening what would be the first gambling casino in Japan.

The proposal indicates the two companies expect to spend a trillion yen, or about $9 billion, on the project, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. MGM confirmed the company submitted a proposal to build a resort on the artificial island of Yumeshima but declined to confirm the expected price tag and other details.

“This is an exciting time for Osaka and the entire Kansai region,” the company said in a statement.

Osaka initiated a request for proposals to build a hotel-casino in Yumeshima — the site of the 2025 World Expo — in December 2019. Osaka officials had hoped to build an integrated resort on the island in time for the 2025 event but gave up on those plans last spring because of the pandemic, local media reported at the time.

MGM is the sole casino company looking to develop a resort in Osaka, though the request for proposals expires next April. Its proposal will be reviewed by Osaka officials and ultimately requires approval from the Japanese government.

Japan is expected to issue three gaming licenses, though the government has not said which cities will get those integrated resorts. Wynn Resorts Ltd. earlier this year bowed out of a potential bid to build a casino in Yokohama, but was still considering other Japanese markets.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said Wednesday that Osaka has received the $9 billion proposal and is aiming to apply to the national government by next April for casino selection, according to the The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper reported that Yoshimura said the resort would open in the second half of the decade.

Japan represents an opportunity for MGM to be the first company in an untapped market, said John DeCree, a Las Vegas-based gaming analyst with CBRE. MGM has employed an “Osaka First” strategy and the proposal “continues to move the ball forward for MGM,” he said.

“Japan is a massive market, massive population, significant tourist volume, and MGM has been in front and ahead in the race in Japan for pretty much the whole time,” DeCree said.

Tokyo and Osaka are the two most attractive Japanese markets for a potential casino given their size, though Tokyo officials have wavered in their support for a casino while Osaka has been “very committed,” he said.

The proposal has been a long time coming, DeCree said, as MGM has made inroads by building “a very large and strong team on the ground in Japan.”

“It’s really exciting for MGM, and it’s probably one of the greatest opportunities for casino development right now,” he said.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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