Also eyeing Thailand, UAE projects

MGM looking to begin construction of Japan's first casino in 2024, says CEO Bill Hornbuckle

MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle
Reading time 2:38 min

MGM Resorts is looking to begin construction for its integrated resort in Osaka, Japan by middle to late next year, MGM President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle has revealed. The announcement comes after the company signed a licensing agreement with Marriott International last week, expected to draw high-end travelers to its Las Vegas' operations.

In an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, Hornbuckle said that the group expects to sign the implementation agreement for its casino resort in Osaka in autumn. Speaking to the publication, he said: “It’s early in the game, but for us, it’s been a 12-year journey. We’re looking forward to signing our area development plan this fall and starting in earnest on the ground, hopefully, by middle to late next year in terms of pylons and beginning construction. We’re shooting for a 2030 opening.”

He further confirmed that the property would be on reclaimed land, the Yumeshima Island, which was “originally built to compete for the ’72 Olympics, and it’s been sitting there since.” Hornbuckle noted that the site is slated to house the World Expo in 2025, "so a lot of the infrastructure and some of the other things we need for tourism will be brought to bear."

Rendering for MGM's proposed Osaka resort

Governor of Osaka prefecture Hirofumi Yoshimura last week said that it would be difficult to finish the project by 2029, as planned in a previous timeline, noting how much time it had taken the national government time to approve Osaka’s plans. The (integrated resort) IR District Development Plan for Osaka was approved in principle on April 14 by the national authorities, having been submitted to them in April 2022.

MGM eyeing expansion in Thailand and UAE

In his interview with Review-Journal, Hornbuckle said that MGM is eyeing expansion to other international markets, including Thailand and UAE. "There’s dialogue and conversation around Thailand. Time will tell," the executive stated. "Anything of large-scale magnitude that draws gaming will be a place where we will do a full investigatory look into."

Meanwhile, MGM has collaborated with Wasl (Asset Management Group) in the UAE. Hornbuckle said: “We have a hospitality project we’ve announced there that’s under construction. Time will tell with what ultimately happens in terms of gaming, but for now, we’re focused on the hospitality we’re building."

"It’s a small man-made island called Porto Island. It sits right at the base of Jumeirah Beach. There will be an MGM, a Bellagio, and an Aria hotel there. It’s a pretty exciting project for them and for us," Hornbuckle said.

No date for opening has yet been confirmed. In the meantime, MGM's CEO said the company follows conversations in regard to potential gaming offerings, but noted that for the time being hospitality is the "key focus" there. "We’ll see what the government does. If they activate, we’d love to participate," he added.

New York license also a priority

Hornbuckle also spoke about MGM's bid to acquire one of three full casino licenses to be made available in New York. The company, which runs the Empire City Casino at the Yonkers racetrack, is seen as a favorite to earn one of the coveted full-scale licenses, allowing it to expand its offerings to Vegas-style slots and live table games. However, the MGM boss doesn't believe the company can start celebrating already.

We take nothing for granted. There are three licenses. Obviously, we enjoy Yonkers today, so we’re in a unique position along with Aqueduct (operated by Genting Group as Resorts World) that we’re in the marketplace with a racino (racetrack and casino), but there are no givens,” he said.

So we’re doing everything we can in terms of the community, in terms of what the (New York) Casino Commission has asked for, to answer their questions and ultimately put together an RFP (request for proposals) and a proposal that we think will be meaningful for both that market and for the region.”

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