Lawrence Ho’s Melco to Pursue Japanese Casino License and Gambling Industry Innovation

Lawrence Ho, Chairman and CEO of integrated resort developer and operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment, has reiterated his company’s commitment to entering Japan. It is believed that it will be around June 2018 when there will be more clarity over the anticipated opening of the nation’s casino market and who will be allowed to participate in it.

Melco, which parted ways with its partner Crown Resorts in early 2017, is one of a number of major operators interested in acquiring a Japanese casino license. The company is competing with names like Las Vegas Sands, Hard Rock International, MGM Resorts International, and Wynn Resorts for a spot in the new gambling jurisdiction.

Mr. Ho has said in a recent interview that they have several goals they want to achieve within the next few years and entering Japan is one of them. The gambling executive has further dwelt that the Pacific Ocean island nation has a great potential that still needs to be explored and developed.

The Melco CEO has also pointed out that if they enter Japan, they will strive to be innovators. Mr. Ho wants his company to be the one that will redefine the integrated resort and casino experience and Japan to be the place where the redefining process will first occur.

The casino executive presented a vision of a casino floor which is not just limited to gaming machines but also features different other entertainment services. According to Mr. Ho, industry representatives from his generation need to improve and diversify guest experience and take better advantage of technology. He believes that artificial intelligence, which has advanced considerably in recent years, could be of great use to the international casino and hospitality industry.

Most of Melco’s competitors for a Japanese casino license operate integrated resorts in Las Vegas. When asked whether they are planning to explore the legendary Strip, Mr. Ho has said that Asia is and will remain their main focus as the region offers “the greatest development opportunities”.

When Will Japan Begin Granting First Casino Licenses?

Japanese lawmakers were expected to produce and pass a casino bill aimed at setting the main principles under which the nation’s casino industry would be run by the end of the year. Said legislative piece would have also named the preferred casino license holders and locations for the construction of the integrated resorts.

However, the recent call for snap election would delay the bill’s approval process to 2018. As mentioned above, it is believed that legislative piece and all the necessary information about the future of the industry will be available by mid-2018. From that point on, the approved operators will be able to proceed with the resorts’ construction. Given the latest delay in the legalization process, it is not likely that first casinos will open in Japan before the early to mid-2020s.

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