Osaka pauses casino tilt effort amid Covid-19 disruptions

Hirofumi Yoshimura, the governor of Japan’s Osaka prefecture, has respectively confirmed to journalists that the prefecture and its associated urban metropolis (pictured), suspended in late June, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the process related to getting a casino complex or integrated resort (IR), as they are known in that country.

“Under the coronavirus situation, the process related to IR has been suspended from the time when previously the prefecture and city announced the postponement of the RFP [request-for-proposal] submission deadline, on June 23,” Mr Yoshimura said, according to information collated by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent.

His remarks were made this week at a briefing for media, held at the prefectural administration’s offices.

The official added that under the current circumstances it was “difficult to proceed” with the RFP process.

But he added, referring to the metropolis’ only qualified applicant to its RFP phase for such a scheme: “The prefecture and city together with MGM Resorts International have maintained its positive, forward-looking stances on Osaka IR.” MGM Resorts’ local partner in its Osaka effort is Japanese financial services group Orix Corp.

According to information from GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, Osaka prefecture and city will determine the new deadline for the RFP after they see the basic policy of the national government and assess the impact of Covid-19 on the outlook for such an enterprise.

A number of industry commentators has indicated that the sticking point currently for casino liberalisation is the national government’s delay in issuing its so-called basic policy on IRs.

The country’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, was recently quoted saying the central authorities were considering the possibility of introducing changes to the timetable for licensing casino resorts in the country, because of Covid-19.

On August 19, the mayor of Yokohama, another city that is suitor for a casino resort, said its own indefinite delay in issuing a local implementation policy was due to the national government not yet issuing its own basic policy on IRs.

A maximum of three casino resorts will be permitted in Japan in a first phase of liberalisation that is touted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government as a form of economic stimulus for the country. Interested local governments must choose a private-sector partner, then apply to the national government to have one.