Chiba Drops Out of IR Race Citing Environmental Concerns

The city of Chiba has become the latest place in Japan to officially drop out from the integrated resort (IR) race, citing more pressing, environmental issues as a priority.

Chiba Decides to Step Out of IR Bidding Process

The Japanese city of Chiba has dropped out of the race for an integrated resort (IR), the central government has announced. Similar to the prefecture of Hokkaido, Chiba has decided to focus on natural disasters management in light of more challenging climate changes.

Chiba was originally looking to be a part of the bid for resorts projects in the country. The Japanese government gave green light to casinos in 2016 and has been working out the regulatory kinks since that time.

A total of three locations will be picked to host an integrated resort, with the first one due to open in 2025.

Commenting on the city’s decision to drop out, Chiba mayor Toshihito Kumagai had the following to say during a press conference cited by Japan Times:

“Campaigning to host an IR would take a lot of energy at a time when we need to place our top priority on post-disaster reconstruction and restoration.”

Did Lawmakers Arrest Lead to the U-Turn?

Elaborating on the city’s decision, Kumagai explained that the government’s motivation had nothing to do with the bribery scandal that has named several high-profile officials and led to the arrest of Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Mr. Abe’s party, on December 25, 2019.

Since then, 500.com’s CEO Pan Zhengming, whose company is at the center of the saga, has requested to be temporarily suspended from his position. Another high-profile lawmaker, Mikio Shimoji, was also implicated in the scandal and had allegedly accepted kickbacks from 500.com to lobby for the company.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the government set up a body to oversee the arrival of casino projects in the country. Known as the Casino Regulatory Commission, the body will be tasked with addressing shady practices within the industry.

Japan’s prosecutors are also spearheading the investigation into the reported corruption scandal involving the afore-mentioned lawmakers and other people who have not been named so far.

Osaka and Yokohama Full Speed Ahead with the Bidding

In the meantime, the city of Yokohama and Osaka have both reaffirmed their ambitions to host an integrated resort. A spokesperson for Yokohama said that the city is still very much focused on submitting a successful bid to host the first venue due to arrive in 2025.

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui has been more cautious with the time frame, arguing that Osaka is still determined to host the project, but that it might happen at the end of the 2026 fiscal year – which is around the time of the World Expo.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is already another serious bidder to host the first resort. Gov. Yuriko Koike has assured media that the local government’s decision about hosting an IR hasn’t changed.

The corruption scandal implicating high-level officials has been somewhat damaging, given the population’s opposition to gambling projects. Yet, most things seem to be on track.

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