Government officials in the Osaka Prefecture and its capital city have formally announced that the deadline for casino operators to submit integrated resort proposals is being pushed back – again.
Earlier this month, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said the city would likely need to extend its request-for-proposal (RFP) deadline because of travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. The prefecture government confirmed the mayor’s comments today.
Osaka officials said there is no firm RFP deadline, and the prefecture will wait to set an exact date once the federal government releases its final Basic Policy. The law will govern how the three integrated resort casino licenses will be awarded, and how their operations will be regulated.
The national government is set to release the National IR Basic Policy by July 26, 2020.
Osaka had previously intended to have its IR open in time for the city’s hosting of the 2025 World Expo. But the casino resort, should it come to fruition, is now likelier to open in 2027-2028.
Before the coronavirus brought domestic and global travel to a standstill, Osaka had told interested casino operators that their proposals should be sent in by the end of April 2020 – before the actual issuing of the national Basic Policy. The prefecture extended the RFP deadline to July in the wake of the pandemic, and now the final date is to be determined.
Osaka isn’t alone in extending its RFP timeline. Wakayama, another prefecture that wants a casino resort, recently announced a similar decision.
Bay City Ventures Managing Director Joji Kokuryo told Casino.org recently that extending the RFP deadline gives both prefectures and casino consortiums “much needed time for competitive dialogue.”
Yokohama and Nagasaki have also publicly expressed their intent to win one of the three gaming concessions. Tokyo and Aichi are two additional prefectures considering a bid.
MGM Frontrunner in Osaka
MGM Resorts is the betting favorite to be selected in Osaka. The Las Vegas-headquartered global casino giant, which additionally operates in China’s Macau, has been on an aggressive marketing campaign to win favor in the Japanese prefecture.
At the company’s Bellagio Conservatory on the Las Vegas Strip, the resort’s 2019 spring exhibit was titled “Japanese Spring.” The show, which MGM described as an opportunity for guests to enjoy “the beauty of spring in Japan,” featured a replica of the Osaka Castle, one of the most historic landmarks in all of Japan.
MGM also sponsored Major League Baseball’s 2019 Opening Series at the Tokyo Dome. Then-MGM CEO Jim Murren was on hand, and said at the time that the casino company “made a decision to focus all of our energy on Osaka.”
“We believe Osaka is going to be the first integrated resort location,” Murren continued. “The government is very excited about it.” MGM Resorts’ consortium for Osaka involves its partnership with Orix, a Japanese financial services firm.
Las Vegas Sands was viewed as a favorite for licensure before its abrupt withdrawal last month. Other casino notables vying for licensure include Macau operators Melco Resorts, Wynn Resorts, and Galaxy Entertainment. Hard Rock International, Genting Group, and Suncity are also prepping schemes.