Melco Resorts to move HQ to Japan if casino bid accepted


melco-resorts-japan-casino-hqAsian casino operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment (MRE) has seriously upped the ante in demonstrating its desire to win a Japanese integrated resort (IR) license.

On Thursday, MRE CEO Lawrence Ho and some of his top execs traveled to Tokyo in a bid to impress upon local officials the company’s fervent desire to land one of the coveted Japanese IR licenses. They achieved this goal in dramatic fashion by pledging to relocate MRE’s corporate HQ from Hong Kong to Japan if its IR bid was successful.

MRE recently established a Japanese subsidiary, MRE Japan, whose staff will be headed up by Japan office president Ako Shiraogawa. But Ho (pictured, center) underscored his personal commitment to the project by saying that if MRE was to win a Japanese license, “Japan would be 100% of my time. I will move here … and move the headquarters to here.”

MRE Japan’s IR project has been given the name The City of the Future, with designers opting for an appropriately “futuristic façade that seamless integrates into the surrounding environment while subtly expressing key motifs in Japanese landscape design.”

Another future-themed aspect of MRE’s design is “the world’s most advanced facial recognition technology for enabling responsible gaming and security.” MRE’s proprietary biometric intelligence system will be integrated throughout the resort, and MRE has offered Japan’s government “back-end access to and data-sharing with these systems free of charge.”

The promise of this technology will undoubtedly play well with Japanese officials and the general public, who have been engaging in some soul-searching over what social harms could come with the launch of the Japan’s first legal casinos.

While Japan approved legislation this year to amend the country’s constitution to permit casinos, the government still has to pass secondary legislation known as the IR Implementation Bill, which likely won’t happen until next year. But the government may try to pass a problem gambling bill – deemed a necessary step toward passage of the Implementation Bill – before the Diet shuts down on December 9.

Even if the Implementation Bill is approved early in 2018, MRE’s Ho could have a long wait before he learns whether his firm has landed one of the possibly only two or three available IR licenses. Spectrum Gaming Group analysts recently suggested that the application process could take up to two years before the lucky license recipients are announced.

While many of MRE’s rivals have salivated at the prospect of a Tokyo IR, Ho has stated his preference for putting down roots in Osaka and the surrounding Kansai region.