In the wake of Japan’s passage of enabling legislation that it is hoped will legalize integrated gambling resorts by the beginning of next year, global casino operators have reportedly stepped up their efforts at enticing local partners and host cities.

According to a report from the Reuters news service, major firms including MGM Resorts International and Hard Rock Cafe International Incorporated are jostling for pole position while a team of around 36 legislators gets down to drafting new regulations designed to select operators and regulate the coming Japanese industry.

Specific criteria on where the new integrated casino resorts will be located is expected by December with the news service reporting that the likeliest option is to see local authorities team up with operators in order to bid for one of the two to three expected licenses.

“If the venue government needs to have a partner in place prior to the selection, we have to start moving now,” an unnamed manager for a Japanese construction firm hoping to be involved in the development of integrated casino resorts told Reuters.

Reuters reported that Japanese political experts have predicted that locations and operators will most likely be chosen by the end of 2019 with the giant complexes, which are to contain casinos, hotels, shops and conference spaces, opening around 2023. It explained that just two casinos in Japan, which has a wealthy population along with a strong tourist appeal, could bring in annual revenues of up to $10 billion while this may rise to as high as $40 billion if more gambling venues are subsequently approved.

Japan attracted a record 24 million tourists last year and the government reportedly sees the coming casinos as a way to keep these numbers up following the conclusion of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Genting Singapore are also allegedly among those hoping to win one of the Japanese casino licenses while Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International reportedly told Reuters that it intends to boost staff and resources this year in order to avoid losing out.

“The opportunity that Japan represents is one of the most significant anywhere in the world,” Alan Feldman, Global Government And Industry Affairs Executive Vice-President for MGM Resorts International told Reuters.

For its part, Orlando-based Hard Rock Cafe International Incorporated, which operates casinos throughout the Americas, reportedly explained that it held talks with local firms and banks in Tokyo last month and included social issues such as gambling addiction in its discussions.

“We should be transparent in explaining both the positive and potential negative impacts of an [integrated casino resort] industry for Japan,” Daniel Cheng, Asia Development Senior Vice-President for Hard Rock Cafe International Incorporated, told Reuters.

As for likely locations, the news service reported that Tokyo could already be out of the running due to its hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympics and height restrictions on new high-rise developments while cities such as Osaka and Yokohama are seen as strong contenders. It explained that international operators will most likely seek minority stakes in ventures majority-owned by Japanese partners, who will bring political connections and local expertise.

On the northern island of Hokkaido, Boyd Gaming Corporation has reportedly met with authorities in Sapporo and revealed that it intends to continue monitoring developments while Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen told Reuters that the manner of the eventual selection process will “result in different kinds of strategies”.

“Regardless of the structure, there will be significant interest from international developers,” Govertson told the news service.