Osaka Castle

Japan IR projects will have to be state-of-the-art, with iconic Japanese elements to be accepted – Consultant

Integrated resort and gaming expert Niall Sean Murray told MNA that any integrated resort wanting to be accepted by Japanese authorities in the current approval process will have to include authentic and elaborate cultural and architectural elements from the Land of the Rising Sun.

“They used the words ‘iconic Japanese’. When you look at Singapore and its Marina Bay Sands, you know exactly what it is. So, they want something similar, something that stands out and that would be immediately associated to Japan”, Murray told MNA.

“Furthermore, they want the resort to respect or involve Japanese culture, or maybe to feature elements that represent the quintessence of the country or a particular prefecture. For instance, they like the beautiful tradition of Japanese gardens a lot, they like to see these kinds of things but they don’t want to see a Japanese-themed park, a foreigner’s impression of what Japan is. They want some real culture and some real art”.

For the gaming consultant, this is one of the reasons why having the right Japanese partner is essential, and a lot of research will need to be conducted on Japanese architecture, history and culture in order to prepare appropriate bids.

Three areas for the integrated resort development will be chosen by Japanese authorities, two metropolitan areas and one regional area, with 67 areas considered eligible for these developments.

The Japanese cities of Osaka, Yokohama, Tokyo, Chiba City, Nagoya, Nagasaki and Wakayama, and the Hokkaido region have all expressed interest in having IRs developed, with further regions expected to join the race in a process that will surely be lengthy.

Osaka is said to be the frontrunner, the first city to see the first integrated resort in the country, in the reclaimed area of Yumeshima, as authorities look to have a resort open before the World Expo in the spring of 2025.

MGM and the Japanese partner Orix have made a bid to build a US $10 billion integrated project in the city with a multi-purpose event center, some 100,000 square meters in space and 3,000 rooms.

This joint venture is considered the leading competitor for an IR in the city by Murray, followed by the Galaxy entertainment Group and Genting Singapore.

“All three have submitted their initial proposals, and each one of them has been returned with very strong comments that they have to be adjusted dramatically, which is a shock to each of them. I heard the Japanese saying ‘Which word of Iconic Japanese don’t you understand?’ It’s very important for them and they are bringing these Western concepts with no real Japanese culture elements in them’”, Murray noted.

Osaka authorities are expected to select the operator by June 2020.

“The Japanese want to do it right, not fast, and they want to make sure they take the time to do it according to law. They also want to make sure that all the elements are taken care of and that they are the right thing for Japan and their city in the long-term”, Murray stated.

However, Murray also expressed concern as he is afraid there could be what he described as a ‘Springfield, Massachusetts’ if Japanese authorities were too demanding.

“What happened in Springfield, Massachusetts is that they put out requests for different operators to come and build a project there. MGM took on the project for a budget of US $760 million. In the ROC process back and forward, more and more demands were placed on MGM, the budget is now close to US $950 million and they’ve tied their hands. Taxes are so high and all the things they have to do for the community are making it very difficult to get any meat out of the bone for that operation”, he noted.

“Japan is one of the strictest jurisdictions in the world, so they are being hugely demanding with the operator and developer. They have to be careful not to tie their arms and legs, then ask them to swim”.