The slow progress of approval of the proposed integrated casino resort projects in the prefectures of Osaka and Nagasaki was expected to face a delay, or what seemed even more likely, a number of delays. Recently, the US gambling giant that selected Osaka Prefecture as a desired destination for a new integrated casino resort in Japan, MGM Resorts International, has confirmed that to be true, saying that the planned property is most likely to start operation in 2030.
At the time when the Japanese Government officially approved the expansion of the country’s gambling sector through the addition of integrated casino resorts, also known as IRs, a few years ago, many were optimistic that the country will be able to have at least one operational casino property before 2024. However, Covid-19 started, with the global coronavirus pandemic and other setbacks slowing the process down, elongating the initial deadline to 2027, and then 2029.
In 2022, the Central Government of Japan finally set a firm deadline for interested parties to apply and, eventually, only two candidates remained to compete for one of the three casino licenses that the country intended to issue – Nagasaki and Osaka. After a further delay, the Prefecture of Osaka only recently found out that its casino project featuring MGM Resorts International as a commercial partner has been officially approved.
The integrated casino resort project tabled by the Prefecture of Nagasaki is still waiting for approval.
Osaka IR Project Unlikely to Open until 2030 Due to Multiple Delays
About a year ago, Japanese authorities hinted that a response on both integrated casino resort projects was likely to be provided by the end of 2022. However, that did not happen.
In February 2023, MGM Resorts shared that it was forced to change its initial plans due to continued and repeated delays in the approval process.
The Osaka Prefecture finally had its integrated casino project approved a few weeks ago, with its US commercial partner also providing an update on the $10-billion project. Now, the company revealed that the launch of the proposed integrated casino resort is set to happen in the first or second quarter of 2030. Unfortunately, new delays could not be ruled out because other unexpected obstacles may occur.
MGM Resorts International has shared it remains confident that it will be able to break ground sometime in 2023, despite it facing certain hurdles on the way. Currently, the US casino giant is working in collaboration with its local business partner, Orix Corp. to set out some legal formalities and leases that need to be completed before it breaks ground. According to MGM Resorts’ CEO Bill Hornbuckle, if the two companies manage to secure all necessary signatures in the current or next quarter, the project can get started by the end of 2023. If not, it is likely for the construction process to start in the first part of 2024.
Hirofumi Yoshimura, Governor of Osaka, however, remains optimistic and continues to promote a 2029 opening of the integrated casino project, although MGM Resorts’ boss has remained skeptical and asserted that a 2030 launch was more likely.
Japanese Government Still Expected to Respond to Nagasaki IR Project
As mentioned above, the other Prefecture that has entered the competition for the Japanese Government’s casino licenses – Nagasaki – has not received feedback on its project. The announcement of the competent authorities’ decision on the Osaka integrated casino project was expected to be closely followed by an announcement regarding the Nagasaki IR project, as well, but that has not happened yet.
The delay has raised concerns about whether the national Government sees the project as a viable one. Recently, the Nagasaki Prefecture has confirmed that it is currently addressing additional questions that legislators have raised and is providing more details about the project.
An issue with funding has also occurred. As CasinoGamesPro previously reported, Casinos Austria has been selected by the Prefecture of Nagasaki as its casino partner. Unfortunately, the company has found it difficult to show how it plans to finance its portion of the integrated casino project. At a later stage, Credit Suisse was confirmed to be involved with the investment but the recent money issues faced by the financial entity have raised even more serious concerns.
In March 2023, Kengo Oishi, the Governor of Nagasaki, said that the bank’s financial issues would not interfere with the progress of the IR application. Experts, however, think otherwise. According to some market analysts, the Japanese Government may use the Credit Suisse issue to reject Nagasaki’s integrated casino project. Some of them went even further, saying that, allegedly, the Government never fully supported the establishment of a casino resort in Nagasaki, so it is now in no hurry to decide on the project.