Japan has been diligently chipping away at the large block that it hopes will ultimately become its casino industry. It has been a slow process and several cities across the country have been anxious to become involved. Among these, Osaka, Nagasaki and Yokohama have been at the forefront the most, all overcoming challenges to be awarded the opportunity to host one of the first three integrated resorts (IR) to be built. However, one of the cities is now facing the possibility of having all of its efforts being thrown in the trash. Yokohama is preparing to elect its mayor and a new candidate has emerged that plans on running on an anti-casino platform. He’s also the current head of the country’s Casino Regulatory Commission, which means he comes with a lot of powerful connections and political pull.
Yokohama May Lose Out on Integrated Resort
Hachiro Okonogi is a long-standing politician who is part of the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. He is also the chair of the National Public Safety Commission and the Japan Casino Regulatory Commission. Okonogi has announced that he plans on competing against Yokohama incumbent mayor Fumiko Hayashi when the city votes for a new mayor this August, and the assertion that he plans on running on an anti-casino platform can only mean that he doesn’t plan on supporting Yokohama as an IR host.
Yokohama has had to overcome some resistance to advance its IR efforts, but it has been able to find enough success to keep the idea alive. It recently announced that it had narrowed down the potential casino operator list to just two companies after having spent millions of dollars campaigning to become a host. Okonogi, should he win, could potentially bring all of the hard work and effort to a grinding halt, leaving the city with a hole in its pocket and a hole where the IR would have been built.
Okonogi Not Alone in Opposing Yokohama Mayor
Hayashi has been working overtime to keep Yokohama’s IR dreams alive and has had to battle resistance on several fronts. At 75 years of age and finishing her third term as mayor, some believe that her time at the top has come to an end. There are no term limits in place; however, it’s been almost 35 years since a mayor served four consecutive terms, and Yokohama voters might be ready for a change.
Okonogi isn’t the only candidate to be running on an anti-casino platform, which is a good thing. There are six people challenging Hayashi’s position and all have taken an anti-gambling stance, at least on paper. One, Masataka Ota, has already asserted that the talk of Yokohama hosting an IR would come to an abrupt halt the day he enters office if elected. However, politicians often change their position following an election.
With six mayoral candidates taking an anti-casino position, it could mean that the division of votes in the election is split thinly. This could potentially give Hayashi an edge and allow her to stay around for one more term. Whether she’s re-elected or someone else steps in, the outcome of this election will likely determine Yokohama’s IR future.