by Meetings & Conventions Asia | December 18, 2018
Osaka is vying to build Japan’s first casino IR.
Osaka officials plan to commence the selection process for potential private sector partners early next year to present a casino bid to Japan's central authorities.

This comes after Osaka governor Ichiro Matsui reportedly met with COO of US-based casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp Robert Goldstein, with the city's mayor also in attendance. "We will shortlist candidates by starting to assess their plans and willingness to invest early next year," he told Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Private-sector partners involved in the development will reportedly be asked to fork out about JPY20 billion (US$176 million) out of the estimated JPY54 billion needed to construct a metro line connecting the artificial island to the rest of the city.

Osaka has consistently voiced support for hosting an integrated resort (IR). The government has identified casino business as a way to boost the local economy via taxation, job and infrastructure creation, as well as increased inbound tourism. An IR could potentially be located on the artificial island of Yumeshima, or "Dream Island".

Yumeshima will host the World Expo 2025, winning the bid last month after beating Russia's Yekaterinburg and Azerbaijan's Baku.

Up to three casino venues will be permitted under the first wave of casino liberalisation in Japan.

Las Vegas Sands is seen by several analysts as a leading candidate to get one of the first casino licenses. In July, the company's chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson announced his firm's plans to pursue "a unique opportunity" in Japan.

"We hope to be able to bring our track record, expertise and development vision together with our industry-leading financial strength to deliver a larger-scale MICE-based integrated resort that would be uniquely tailored to the Japanese market," he said.