After years of speculation, analysis, controversy and bidding, the Japanese integrated resort (IR) licensing process is finally getting down to some hard decisions. Osaka made their big decision, declaring MGM as their only accepted bid to go forward and build a casino with.
Osaka prefecture made the announcement on February 14 in a short post to their website. While the announcement names two parties, MGM and the Orix Consortium, the two groups are working together.
This means MGM has lasted the gauntlet of a half a dozen other challengers. In May 2019, Osaka City’s mayor, Ichiro Matsui, noted that the city was also considering partnering with Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, Genting Singapore Ltd, Las Vegas Sands Corp, Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, Wynn Resorts Ltd and an “Osaka local alliance.”
But it quickly became clear that of that list, MGM was the top choice. They were the only operator making promises to hit a 2025 grand opening, an important date for Okada as that’s the year they will host the World Expo. The summer of 2019 saw both Las Vegas Sands and Melco Resorts drop out of contention for Okada’s IR, and Fitch Ratings declared MGM the clear favorite shortly after.
The choice became even clearer in October, when Wynn Resorts dropped out of consideration as well. Then in November, MGM partnered with Okada on their request for proposal process (RFP). With three of their original six competitors out of the race, the final choice was becoming pretty clear.
Being the only operator with a successful bid gives MGM a lot of clout going into the rest of the IR process. With Osaka apparently hell bent on having an IR, and as soon as possible, MGM can now set the terms of the deal. If Osaka doesn’t like it, they’ll have to restart the whole process. But considering how much time and money both sides are throwing at this opportunity, the odds that either would risk scuttling the deal seems unlikely.