By a Biometrica staffer
Wynn Resorts Ltd closed its office in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city by population, due to delays in the integrated resort licensing process but said it remains interested in the country on a long-term basis.
“The pandemic is having an unprecedented negative impact on integrated resort development, and resort companies such as Wynn are considering how we evolve our operations to align with a post-pandemic market,” Wynn said in a statement, according to an article by Bloomberg Quint. “Long term, we remain interested in the Japan integrated resort market and will monitor the situation closely.”
Enthusiasm among operators for Japan ran high for nearly two years, as analysts estimated it could eventually become the world’s second-largest gaming market, behind only Macau and well ahead of Las Vegas, the article said.
Japan’s population, proximity to other Asian nations with throngs of gamblers, and the country’s status as one of the wealthiest in the world were among the traits that had operators vying to capture the market. Japanese legislators approved the country’s first Vegas-style casino developments, known as integrated resorts, but none have yet been built.
Wynn’s announcement came less than three months after rival Las Vegas Sands said it was bowing out of the competition for Japan. In May, Las Vegas Sands withdrew plans to set up an integrated resort (IR) in Japan, with its chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson citing the Asian country’s IR development framework as the reason behind the decision, according to an article in Casino.org.
Caesars Entertainment Corp ended its pursuit of a Japanese casino last year, as it decided to focus on the U.S. market instead. MGM Resorts International, the lone remaining bidder for a casino in Osaka, said it will continue to pursue the project despite delays in the process that could last until next year.
In July 2018, Japanese policymakers approved IRs, pledging to award three licenses to start with. But it became clear later that a single, plush IR could cost $10 billion to $15 billion to build, making it the most expensive project in industry history, according to the Casino.org article. Additionally, consistent delays in proposal submission deadlines and other regulatory hurdles drew the ire of some operators, the article added.
Initially, the hope was that Japan would award licenses this year or in early 2021, which meant gaming venues could hope to open in 2025. But now, the request for proposal (RFP) process could extend into the middle of 2021, and it could be 2026 or later before a casino there opens its doors.
Wynn declared its intention to focus on Yokohama last December. But with Wynn and Las Vegas Sands both now appearing to be out of the picture, the field of competitors for a license in Yokohama is thinning.
Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts & Entertainment are among the other operators that previously expressed interest in Yokohama. Neither has given any indication about possibly scrapping their Japan plans.