MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren met with several prominent officials in Osaka on Thursday, a day before the company set up an office in the city.
Murren met specifically with Governor Ichiro Matsui and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, saying that the city was the best candidate for an integrated resort license.
MGM’s Interest in Osaka No Secret
This is not the first time Murren has signaled that MGM might be interested in developing a resort in Osaka. Last July, Murren told the Japanese media that the company was only interested in pursuing a license in a major city, with Osaka being its top choice.
Those comments were reiterated this week. On Wednesday, Matsui had said that the local government would begin taking offerings from gaming operators this spring, and that he hoped Murren would make “a pro-active proposal.”
According to Murren, MGM is looking at the potential of working with local companies to strengthen their bid.
“We are making progress in discussions with Japanese corporations to form a consortium,” Murren said, according to Nikkei Asian Review. “We will support Osaka in obtaining IR certification.”
Murren’s chat with local officials was followed up on Friday by a launch party celebrating the opening of MGM’s new office in Osaka. The company isn’t the first to open a local base of operations, as both Genting and Melco Resorts have already done so in anticipation over a battle for a license in or near the city.
Osaka Seen as Leading IR Candidate
The attention isn’t surprising. Among Japan’s major cities, only Osaka – home to 2.7 million residents – has shown great enthusiasm for a casino project, making it a likely home for one of the up to three integrated resorts that can be approved by the Japanese government.
Tokyo has not raised its hand, Yokohama has not raised its hand,” MGM Executive Vice President of Global Development Ed Bowers told Reuters in August. “Osaka has raised its hand.”
Osaka officials hope that an integrated resort could boost the city’s tourism industry. That will also likely get a boost from the 2025 World Expo, which Osaka recently won the right to host. Both the resort and the expo could provide motivation for the development of Yumeshima Island, an artificial plot of land that was reclaimed from Osaka Bay.
Osaka Buy In: One Trillion Yen
Any such project will cost money, of course. Upgrading the island’s infrastructure could cost more than $1 billion, and local officials are hoping that any IR developer would be willing to chip in some of its own money to make the necessary improvements.
That probably won’t be a problem for MGM. Back in July, Murren told Japanese media that his company was prepared to invest up to one trillion yen – about $9.2 billion – into the development of a resort in the city.
But that alone won’t be enough to guarantee that MGM will be chosen as the developer for an Osaka bid. Both Melco and Las Vegas Sands have pledged to invest just as much money, and an August report by Reuters said that at least eight gaming firms had publicly declared their interest in building in the city.
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