(For other news from the Reuters Japan Investment Summit, click
TOKYO May 17 The western Japanese city of Osaka
could have a casino resort up and running by 2019, in time for
the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, if a bill to legalize casinos is
approved by parliament this year, executives of MGM Resorts
International said on Saturday.
"If the first bill passes in the fall of this year, you
could have something up and ready to go in Osaka by the end of
2019," Ed Bowers, MGM's senior vice president for global gaming
development, said in an interview for the Reuters Japan Summit.
Lawmakers have said they would like to see Japan's first
casino open in time for the Olympics to capture demand from the
influx of visitors expected then. But hopes for achieving that
timetable have dwindled in recent days with a bill legalizing
casinos languishing on the parliament floor.
Bowers' comments highlight the growing view that Osaka is
more likely than Tokyo to be the first big city to host a casino
should legislation pass and is perhaps the only hope for the
pre-Olympics development of large-scale integrated resort.
Whereas the Tokyo government is busy preparing to host the
2020 Olympics and has yet to declare if it wants a casino for
the capital, Osaka officials have been aggressively courting
operators and have already chosen Yumeshima, a plot of reclaimed
land on Osaka Bay, as the preferred development site.
MGM has shown officials a tentative plan for how it would
develop Yumeshima, featuring two hotel towers with a total of
5,000 rooms, a 20,000 seat entertainment arena and a circular
waterway inspired by the moat surrounding Osaka Castle.
The U.S. casino operator has also been sounding out local
companies such as electronics giant Panasonic Corp
about partnering in the project, although talks are at a
preliminary stage, Bowers and Executive Vice President Alan
Feldman said in the interview. Environmental technologies such
as water management are among the areas where MGM envisions
tapping the expertise of Japanese firms, Feldman said.
The biggest obstacle to these plans is getting the initial
casino bill to a vote in parliament.
The initial bill, which sets the framework for deregulation
and would be followed a year later by a second bill enacting
concrete rules for site selection and operation, has taken a
back seat to other legislation and faces opposition from some
parties. Once considered a sure bet, lawmaker Sakihito Ozawa, a
key casino supporter, said this week that he thought it now only
had a "50-50" chance in the current session to June 22.
Feldman, who is in charge of government and industry
affairs, said he was not surprised that other legislation has
been given priority and expressed confidence the bill would get
the green light later this year.
"I think it's going to pass in the fall," he said.
Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits
(For more summit stories, see )
(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Matt Driskill)