Japan Casino Bidding Process Will Begin in Late 2019, Melco CEO Believes

The bidding process for Japan’s first integrated resorts will likely begin late next year or even in 2020, Melco Resorts & Entertainment Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho said in an interview with business media outlet Bloomberg.

Melco currently operates integrated resorts in Macau and the Philippines and is betting big on Japan as the next big integrated resort and casino gambling market.

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, submitted last week the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill to the country’s parliament, the National Diet, after crafting the piece of legislation and formally approving it. The Diet will now have to review the bill and vote it.

While the legislation was previously hoped to be passed this year, industry representatives and analysts have voiced concerns that its passage might be delayed due to an ongoing cronyism scandal involving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr. Ho told Bloomberg that if the Diet manages to pass the IR Implementation Bill by the end of 2018, Japanese lawmakers will still have much work to do before being able to launch a bidding process. Under the legislative piece, up to three integrated resorts with casino floors will initially open in the country.

The businessman further elaborated that once the piece of legislation is voted, lawmakers will need a bit more time to craft the actual law under which integrated resorts will be operated, to set up a gaming commission that will oversee the provision of casino gambling services within the properties, and to select the locations where these will be built.

Heavy Lobbyism

Mr. Ho said that his company is extremely committed to entering Japan’s casino gaming and tourism sectors. The casino executive also pointed out that he has been lobbying for the adoption of an integrated resort legislation for twelve years now.

Melco has set up two offices in Tokyo and Osaka and has around 20 staff members to explore Japan’s tourism, gaming, and overall business environment. Mr. Ho said he sees Japan as their “greatest opportunity” for expansion and that his company will seek to extend its footprint into that particular market, even if the bidding process for gaming licenses begins in five or ten years from now.

Of Melco’s key market, Macau, Mr. Ho said that they are set to launch the Morpheus tower at their flagship property City of Dreams Macau this year. The new tower will expand the resort’s room base by nearly 50% and will help it further boost it mass market offering. Mr. Ho expressed optimism about the growth of the mass market segment and of Macau as the world’s largest casino gaming hub.

The executive’s comments come as the city’s gambling regulator published April gambling revenue figures. Revenue in Macau grew 28% year-on-year to $3.2 billion last month.

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