Osaka making early preparations for casino bidding process

welcome-to-osakaAnd so it begins.

A handful of the world’s biggest casino operators have begun discussions with the government of Osaka on plans to build an enormous casino resort in Japan’s second largest city should the country lift its ban on casinos.

That’s the caveat because as it is now, lawmakers are still in the process of discussing the current bill that would legalize casinos in the country but even before the bill passes (it’s more than likely that it will), the city is already making preliminary preparations so that it already has the proverbial leg up on other Japanese cities.

Caesars Entertainment Corp., Genting Singapore Plc, and MGM Resorts International are among those that have expressed interest in developing a $4.8 billion casino resort in Osaka, a staggering amount that properly justifies Japan as an expected casino super power.

Osaka Prefecture Governor Ichiro Matsui believes that casino legalization is only a matter of time and the city is gearing up to be able to lure operators that may otherwise have eyes for other Japanese cities like Tokyo. “Even before the casino bill is passed, Osaka is crafting details of the resort plan so that we could embark on the project at any time,” Matsui, who is also the secretary-general of the Japan Restoration Party, told Bloomberg.

“We’d need global casino-operators’ involvement and expertise as the business is new to Japan.”

If there’s anything that Osaka can puff its chest on that could prove to be enticing for casino operators, it’s the price of land in the city. Take for example: land in the bayside area of Osaka only costs a small percentage of the price compared to some of the more affluent areas in Tokyo.

Plus, Osaka already is a bustling metropolis of its own, serving as one of the most attractive landing spots for tourists going to Japan. It has a world-class international airport, some of the best tourist destinations in the country, and let’s not forget, a population of close to 9 million people.

But here’s the biggest reason why casino operators should be racing to build a casino in the city. A recent report compiled by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets indicated that a casino resort in Osaka could generate an annual gross revenue of as much as $5 billion, almost double that what all 12 casinos in Atlantic City earned for the entire year last year. That’s not an indictment on Atlantic City (ok, maybe it is) as much as it is a glowing prediction on how big the casino market is expected to be in Japan.

Caesars, Genting, and Melco Crown have already had talks with officials from Osaka last year and MGM is expected to have one in the coming months. Steven Tight, president for international development at Caesars confirmed to Bloomberg that the company has been toying with the idea of building a casino in Japan for the years, at least in the event that the country drops its ban on them.

Now that steps have been taken towards that inevitability, the company, according to Tight, is already on the move to make its pitch. It’s also been in discussions with potential local partners and has even toured some potential sites in Osaka Bay, all in preparation for the day the country officially opens its borders to casinos.

One potential site that’s being touted as a possible site for a casino resort in Osaka is Yumeshima, a reclaimed island in Osaka Bay. That, along with other potential sites, could have all these operators, which also includes Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, and Galaxy Entertainment, fighting over who gets dibs on Osaka.

We may not have all the answers ironed until the legislation is officially passed, but as early as now, everybody with any vested interest in the country is already jostling for position in Osaka. And really, can you blame them?