Referendum could cast doubts on Yokohama integrated resort 

By Charlotte Lee Updated
Yokohama committee opposed to casino referendum 

Yokohama’s plans for an integrated resort have been thrown into chaos after a resident group gained enough signatures needed for a referendum on the issue.

Asgam reports that the group, Yokohama Citizens’ Group to Decide on a Casino has collected more than double the number of required signatures, with 156,000 collected so far.

If confirmed, Mayor Fumiko Hayashi will submit a referendum ordinance proposal to the city council.

The referendum requires the ordinance proposal to be passed before proceeding, but it is unclear if this will be adopted because the city council is in favour of the integrated resort bid.

Mayor Hayashi has indicated she will stop the project if the referendum demonstrates a majority of residents are in opposition.

Another political group, Recall Movement Starting from One Person, which opposes the resort, but also aims to recall the mayor’s election, had collected 41,122 signatures as of November 4.

It has approximately one month to collect more signatures, but remains well short of the required 500,000 signatures needed to dismiss the mayor.

A leading contender for a Japanese integrated resort licence has closed its Yokohama office after the country announced it would delay its decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Japan Times reported in August that Wynn Resorts’ Yokohama office closure shouldn’t be taken to mean they aren’t interested in the project.

“The pandemic is having an unprecedented negative impact on integrated resort development, and resort companies such as Wynn are considering how we evolve our operations to align with a post-pandemic market,” the company said on Sunday. 

“Long-term, we remain interested in the Japan integrated resort market and will monitor the situation closely.”

Wynn has been pursuing a casino in Japan for years.

The country had been considered one of the top prizes in the industry, given Japan’s population and wealth.

Japanese legislators approved the country’s first Vegas-style casino developments, known as integrated resorts, but none have yet been built.

A decision to focus on the US market prompted Caesars Entertainment to end its pursuit of a Japanese casino last year.

Las Vegas Sands Corp said in May it was also pulling out of the race, citing high tax rates, unfavourable terms and the cost of building, which many have put at $10 billion.

MGM Resorts International, the lone remaining bidder for a casino in Osaka, said last week it will continue to pursue the project, despite delays that could last until next year.

The COVID-19 shut down much of the world’s casinos this year and Wynn’s resorts in Macau, Las Vegas and Boston are still experiencing sluggish demand.

Wynn furloughed a number of employees in Las Vegas last month because business was not coming back as quickly as it had hoped.

Police sting illegal gambling group in Japan

Japanese police in Saitama Prefecture have arrested 18 people in association with an illegal gambling operation.

Gambling Insider reported in June that Tomohiro Hanaya, the 50-year-old manager of the gaming facility, has been arrested in addition to his 12 employees, under suspicion of hosting baccarat games with customers playing for money.

Five customers have also been arrested in the raid for betting with cash.

Police searched the property for around six hours and confiscated four baccarat tables, a number of player card decks and $114,285 in cash.

One customer reportedly told police they had intended to make money after losing their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The illegal casino was active 24/7 for at least a year and took in around 10 customers on a typical day during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, Japanese police have detected a number of illegal gambling operations across the country.

In May, Aichi Prefectural police arrested 23 workers and customers at a casino in Nagoya on suspicion of illegal gambling.

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