Wynn Resorts Shuts Yokohama Office After Casino License Delays

  • Company said COVID-19 had “unprecedented negative impact” on integrated resort development
  • Wynn will continue to monitor situation, affirming long-term interest in Japan market
  • Setbacks caused by delayed publication of IR policy, casino licenses bribery scandal 
  • Operators like Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment have already pulled out of race
closed sign on shop door
Wynn Resorts said it still has a long-term interest in obtaining a Japanese casino license after announcing the closure of its Yokohama office. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Operator expressed long-term interest

Wynn Resorts Ltd has decided to close an office it had set up in Yokohama, Japan with the aim of helping it obtain a casino license in the region.

an unprecedented negative impact”

In a company announcement released Sunday, Wynn Resorts cited the coronavirus pandemic as having had “an unprecedented negative impact” on integrated resort development. As a result, it has been looking at ways to alter operations to align with the market post-pandemic. It added that it still has a long-term interest in the Japan integrated resort market and will be closely monitoring all developments. The global casino operator indicated it will still look to obtain one of the three available licenses. 

Wynn Resorts announced in December 2019 that it would be focusing on Yokohama as part of its efforts to get a casino license in Japan. The Wynn Resorts Development Japan office opened in Yokohama on December 15. No indication has been given of the exact date of the office’s closure.

Delays to the licensing process

Japan’s three integrated resort licenses are highly coveted by global casino companies, with a number of operators setting up offices in different cities tp this effect. Local governments need to have a private-sector partner when applying to the national government to host a resort casino. While the country’s legislature legalized integrated resorts in 2018, not much progress was made on the awarding of licenses. 

In July, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported that the publication of the national basic policy for integrated resorts would be delayed until at least August. This could set back the application process when it opens in the first half of 2021.

political figures in Japan allegedly accepted kickbacks

There has also been some backlash against expanding gambling in the country, particular after the exposure of a bribery scandal at the end of 2019. Numerous political figures in Japan allegedly accepted kickbacks from a Chinese gambling company in connection with the awarding of casino licenses. 

Other companies pulling out

Alongside Wynn’s Yokohama office shutdown, a number of other casino operators have ended their interest in the Japanese market for one reason or another.

In May, Las Vegas Sands cited high tax rates, development costs, and unfavorable terms as reasons for pulling out of the competition for a Yokohama casino license. The company said it may be open to revisiting the Japanese market if the country’s legal framework becomes more investor-friendly in the future. The development cost of an integrated resort is estimated to go as high as $10bn. 

Caesars Entertainment also announced last year that it would no longer be pursuing a license in Japan, preferring to focus on the US market. 

MGM Resorts International’s office in Osaka, however, is still operating. As the only bidder for a casino license in the city, MGM confirmed last week that it will still be pursuing its plan to operate a gambling facility despite the delays that have been plaguing the licensing process.

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