Osaka authorities dismiss USJ’s hope of casino licence

By Emma Rumney
Osaka officials have rejected the idea that one of the area’s potential casino licences could go to Universal Studios Japan (USJ), leaving MGM Resorts International and Galaxy Entertainment Group as the front-runners.

The Osaka-based theme park operator told Kyodo news agency that it hoped to bid for a casino licence when they became available and, if successful, operate a casino and entertainment complex on a nearby island.

But, speaking to the Japan Times, Osaka governor Ichiro Matsui and Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto swiftly dismissed the likelihood of this happening.

Hashimoto said he doesn’t “have a relationship based on trust with USJ’s management” after a long-winded dispute between USJ and city officials. Since 2010 the city has taken USJ to court a number of times in efforts to force the firm to pay more for its city property leases.

Matsui also noted that “USJ has no experience at all in the casino sector”.

Instead the newspaper reports that MGM Resorts International and Galaxy Entertainment Group remain among the main contenders, citing unnamed officials.

The firms are among other large, international operators such as Caesars Entertainment and Genting that are known to be discussing proposals with Osaka officials.

City authorities plan to build an integrated resort on an artificial island in Osaka Bay named Yumeshima.

While parliamentary discussions on legalisation are put on hold for the summer recess, Osaka - where the administration is more supportive of legalisation than in Tokyo for example, where opinion is more conservative - continues to move forward with its plans.

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