Naomi Osaka becomes Melco brand ambassador

Melco Resorts & Entertainment said Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka has become brand ambassador and sports group director for the company’s Yokohama IR bid.

“Being director of sports for Melco and having the chance to contribute to the content of the resort in Yokohama is amazing,” Osaka said in a video screened at the event. “Together we will be able to better integrate sport, health, and wellness into the concept.”

Melco Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho also announced the establishment of the “Melco Creative Exchange” (MCX), a JPY27 billion (about $250 million) investment fund to create premium tourist destinations in the Japanese regions.

The first two projects of the MCX are a modern hot spring facility in Hakone and a ski resort in Nagano, for which several concept images were presented to the gathered journalists. These facilities will be built whether or not Melco’s Yokohama IR bid is successful.

After the event, Asia Gaming Brief had a one-on-one interview with Lawrence Ho in which he explained in more detail why Melco gave up on its Osaka Yumeshima IR bid and has launched its “Yokohama First” policy.

The Melco chief noted that his company aims to “underpromise” and “overdeliver” by creating a world-leading IR, and that Yokohama was better suited to that vision than Osaka.

He also indicated that the Osaka government’s strong desire to open the Yumeshima IR before the 2025 World Expo presented too ambitious a timeline to deliver a truly world-class IR, and he was highly skeptical that other operators would be successful in doing so.