Osaka delays Japanese IR until 2027; MGM Resorts still interested Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · June 5, 2020 at 3:32 pm Osaka officials have moved the completion timeline for the city’s integrated resort until 2027, or as late as 2028, the city’s mayor revealed on Thursday. Inside Asian Gaming first reported the story. Mayor Ichiro Matsui blamed the delays on the COVID-19 pandemic. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International has been the leading Las Vegas casino operator seeking a license for Osaka. “We will prepare our (request for proposal) submission in accordance with the schedule that Osaka lays out,” according to a statement from the company provided to CDC Gaming Reports Friday by spokeswoman Debra DeShong. “We continue to work hard to prepare an RFP proposal to realize a world-class IR in Osaka.” Japan, once considered the gaming industry’s next lucrative international destination after Macau and Singapore, now seems to pose more concerns than potential. Nearly three years after the Japanese government established three integrated resort licenses, the effort has slowed, with seemingly little progress made. MGM has long focused on Osaka, and acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle, who has been involved in the company’s efforts in Japan from the beginning, said on April 30 the process might be delayed. “Our team has worked hard on this, (and) as you know, we’re the lone standing applicant (in Osaka), and we would submit,” Hornbuckle said on MGM’s first-quarter conference call. “But I think what may happen is that the whole process gets pushed closer to the end of the year, which I think is appropriate and fine by us.” MGM is a 40% partner in the Osaka venture with Japan-based Orix. Addressing the Asian media on Thursday, Matsui acknowledged Osaka’s IR timeline was now running between one and two years later than first hoped, with the government having previously been pushing to open an IR before the start of the 2025 World Expo. The latest delay was brought about by the inability of officials to meet with Osaka’s candidate consortium, MGM Resorts Japan and Orix, due to global travel restrictions. Inside Asian Gaming reported MGM and Orix had requested the submission deadline for RFP documentation be extended from July and the schedule reviewed. Osaka’s goal remains to open an IR on the artificial island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay. “I have received a message from the operator asking for a short extension,” Matsui said Thursday. “The investment capacity of the operator has taken a blow, and we will consider this when we are determining an opening time. I can foresee an overall delay of between one and two years.” In March, the RFP submission deadline and operator selection timeline, along with land transfer, was delayed by three to six months. Any hope of opening before the 2025 World Expo was also shelved. Osaka’s delay comes as the national government ponders delaying its own selection process. Publication of Japan’s IR Fundamental Policy was originally expected in January of this year, but as of June, it has yet to be released. Last month, Las Vegas Sands ended its long pursuit of an integrated resort license in either Tokyo or Yokohama, an effort the casino giant once said it would spend up to $10 billion to $12 billion to win in necessary. “If the best are leaving, it’s never a good sign for the remaining,” Stifel Financial gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski told investors last month. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.