Casino Life

Melco Ends Yokohama Casino Effort

Hong Kong-based gaming and hospitality operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment has officially put an end to its effort to win the right to build an integrated casino resort in Yokohama.

The company’s Chairman and CEO, Lawrence Ho, said Monday that they will close their office in the city, but will remain committed to exploring development opportunities in other parts of Japan.

News about Melco’s exit from Yokohama emerged shortly after the new mayor of Japan’s second most populous city delivered on his election promise to pull it from the country’s integrated resort race.

The nation’s central government is set to pick up to three partnerships between a Japanese city/prefecture and an interested developer as part of a decade-long effort to enhance the local tourism product with the addition of integrated resort experience.

Under Japan’s recently adopted casino legalization law, integrated resorts are multi-purpose complexes with casinos as well as with multiple hotels, dining outlets, and various attractions. The large-scale properties, when finally built, will be primarily geared towards international visitors.

Yokohama was considered one of the top contenders in the race for the three casino licenses that are up for grabs, but the city’s new top official, Takeharu Yamanaka, last week confirmed that it was no longer interested in hosting a gaming resort.

Mr. Yamanaka was elected on August 22 beating off casino supporter Fumiko Hayashi who was running for her fourth four-year term. Yokohama entered the integrated resort fold in the summer of 2019 namely under Ms. Hayashi.

Still Committed to Japan

In a Monday statement, Melco’s CEO, Mr. Ho, said that they were disappointed by Mayor Yamanaka’s decision to end Yokohama’s effort to win the right to host an integrated resort, but were “grateful for the friendships that we have formed throughout the process.”

After initially considering Osaka as their casino resort partner, Melco announced a “Yokohama First” strategy in the fall of 2019.

The company is now set to close its office in the city, but will maintain a representative office in Tokyo. Japan’s capital has not announced yet whether it will seek a license to host a casino complex under the country’s IR implementation policy.

Mr. Ho further pointed out on Monday that “Melco has been working on the ground in Japan for over a decade” and that the company firmly believes in “the country’s long-term potential and remain committed to exploring opportunities to develop the world’s best integrated resort in Japan.”

Under the central government’s current IR policy timetable, cities and prefectures have until April 28, 2022 to form partnerships with preferred developers and submit resort plans.

The Nagasaki prefecture recently teamed up with Casinos Austria to jointly bid for one of the three gaming permits, while a consortium led by Canada’s Clairvest Neem Ventures has been picked as Wakayama’s preferred developer. Osaka is expected to announce a consortium between MGM Resorts International and Orix Corp. as its integrated resort partner in the coming weeks. The Las Vegas-based casino powerhouse recently unveiled plans to build a $9.1 billion mega-complex in Osaka Bay.

Source: Foiled Yokohama suitor Melco still pledged to Japan: Ho, GGRAsia, September 13, 2021

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