USJ hopes Harry Potter magic will woo casino partners in Japan

    USJ Co. is counting on its cachet of turning around a failing Universal Studios theme park in Japan to win a partnership with a foreign casino operator, as the country edges nearer to legalizing gambling resorts, Bloomberg reports.

    The operator of Osaka city’s 13-year-old Universal Studios Japan is in talks with MGM, Caesars, and Genting for a possible partnership to run a casino resort, Chief Executive Officer Glenn Gumpel said in a Bloomberg interview.

    “We have operational capacity, experience know-how, and I don’t think we would be stretched to participate in more than one” casino resort, Gumpel said at USJ’s headquarters located inside the park. “As a company, we would like to grow outside of the current confines of the theme park.”

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party is seeking to pass a law to legalize casinos in the parliamentary session starting autumn, as part of plans to boost tourism along with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Operators including MGM, Caesars, LVS, have expressed interest to take part once the ban is lifted and pledged to spend billions of dollars to build a resort. USJ joins Japanese companies such as Sega Sammy, Konami, and Dynam Japan Holdings Co. competing for partnerships with casino operators in a market that could be Asia’s second largest after Macau and worth $40 billion a year as early as 2025. The company is hoping its experience operating a theme park and knowledge of marketing and entertainment will help it to stand out from other suitors.