International edition
September 24, 2021

The operator would invest more than USD 5 billion on the casino project

Melco Crown seeks Japan casino partners

(Japan).- Australian billionaire James Packer said Melco Crown Entertainment is looking for partners to build casinos in Japan should the country legalize gambling resorts and would consider listing the venture. “Our expectation would be to have a strong set of Japanese partners,” Packer, co-chairman of Melco Crown, said at a media briefing in Tokyo. “We have had very preliminary talks,” he said, without naming companies or elaborating on a possible listing plan.

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nternational casino operators such as Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International (MGM) are looking for Japanese partners in anticipation that the government will open up the market. CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets’ estimates Japan’s casino market could eventually generate us$ 40 billion in annual revenue, trailing the southern Chinese city of Macau.

The project will be executed through Hong Kong-based Melco Crown, a venture he has with Lawrence Ho, the company’s co-chairman and the son of Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho.

Japanese lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Japan Restoration Party and other groups submitted a bill to legalize casinos to parliament in December. Some lawmakers who support the bill have said they will push for passage of the bill this year. A subsequent bill detailing the rules of casino operation would also need to be approved.

Melco Crown will be flexible about partnership and has talked to various companies including real estate developers and infrastructure companies over the past several years, Lawrence Ho said in an interview last year. He would also be interested in tie-ups with Japanese trading houses, said Ho, who is also the chief executive officer of Melco Crown. The casino operator would invest more than us$ 5 billion on the Japan casino project, Ho said at that time.

Minimum us$ 5 billion

“I do not envisage an integrated resort in either Tokyo or Osaka would be successful at anything under us$ 5 billion,” Packer said on the outlook for investment in Japan. “The cost for the successful applicant would probably be more than us$ 5 billion.”

Packer, 46, has a net worth of us$ 6.6 billion, making him the second-richest person in Australia, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Packer is also the chairman of Melbourne-based Crown Resorts.

Melco Crown rose 1.9 percent in Hong Kong trading. The benchmark Hang Seng Index climbed 0.7 percent.

Las Vegas Sands’s CEO Sheldon Adelson said in February the company is ready to invest us$ 10 billion for its casino project in Japan. MGM CEO James Murren also revealed a similar plan in the same month.

Potential partners

Among the potential partners for casino operators are trading companies such as Mitsui & Co., Mitsubishi and Itochu as well as gaming machine makers Sega Sammy Holdings and Konami. The trading companies have project-finance experience and real estate development connections, while the game makers have helped develop casino projects and technology outside of Japan.

Pachinko company Dynam Japan Holdings Co. and gaming equipment maker Japan Cash Machine Co. and Oizumi Corp., a pachinko equipment maker, may also benefit.
“Melco Crown is a company that is formed on the basis of partnership,” said Packer. “Some companies are more attuned to partnership mentality than others and I think it’s one of the strengths of Melco Crown.”

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