After spending the past two years preparing to compete for one of the first three integrated resort (IR) properties in Japan, Yokohama is bowing out. Despite millions of dollars having been invested and several high-profile casino operators in the running, the city’s efforts to host an IR have come to an abrupt end. A new mayor is coming into power and, with him, a new direction away from any talk about a large casino resort.
Yokohama Changes Course Away from IR
While Yokohama’s future as an IR host has been full of controversy, there was still a chance that a casino resort would come to the city. That chance was eliminated over the weekend when Takeharu Yamanaka, a former professor and data scientist, was elected mayor. A public opponent of the city’s involvement in Japan’s upcoming gambling scene, which became part of his campaign platform, Yamanaka has already stated that Yokohama will officially be withdrawing its interest, adding that the city will ” issue a formal statement soon making it clear that Yokohama will not make a hosting bid.”
Yokohama had spent millions of dollars preparing to compete for one of the first three IRs in Japan and had also seen investments from a number of casino operators. Wynn Resorts was in the race before it dropped out and, as the process evolved, only Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts and Entertainment were left standing. The pair had just wrapped up a request for proposal process in June and were working on their final design plans, but will most likely now have to scrap everything in the city. At least no one will have to watch Yukio Fujiki commit seppuku.
New Opportunities Could Arise
With the departure of Yokohama, Nagasaki, Osaka, Tokyo and Wakayama are currently the only areas to be in the IR hunt. However, Tokyo might be exiting in the near future, as well. Much of the support for casino resorts in Japan has been coming through the country’s leading Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is losing ground. Yamanaka, who believes international tourism can be supported without a casino, won in Yokohama on the backs of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, and the LDP is losing its grip in Tokyo, as well.
It’s possible that, with the evolving landscape in Japan’s IR industry, some other city or prefecture could appear on the scene. With millions of dollars and significant resources already having been invested, potential casino operators don’t want to see all of it go to waste and are likely already exploring new options elsewhere in the country. However, as opposition to IRs continues to increase and the LDP continues to have its grip weakened, finding significant support elsewhere in the country is going to be significantly more difficult.