Yokohama casino future hangs in the balance

By Mia Chapman Updated
Yokohama casino future hangs in the balance

Plans for a future integrated resort in the Japanese city of Yokohama hinge on the upcoming mayoral elections on August 22, where six of the eight candidates confirmed they were against the plan.

tGGR Asia reports that incumbent mayor Fumiko Hayashi and minor contender Mineyuki Fukuda are the only two candidates in favour of integrated resorts.

At the last mayoral election, in July 2017, Ms Hayashi got more votes than the other two main candidates combined.

The entire turnout that time represented 37.2 per cent of the electorate.

Ms Hayashi is the most prominent of the two pro-integrated resort candidates in this year’s contest for leadership of the Japanese metropolis.

She has affiliations with the national governing party, the Liberal Democratic Party and its partner Komeito.

But neither of those parties have officially endorsed her latest mayoral bid, opting instead on a free vote on the matter.

One of the prominent anti-integrated resort contenders in Yokohama’s mayoral race is Hachiro Okonogi, a senior figure in the national LDP-Komeito coalition, who is also not being directly endorsed by the major party.

Yokohama concluded in June its request-for-proposal submission period regarding commercial partners for its tilt at getting a casino complex.

Genting and Melco firm as Yokohama front runners

Genting Singapore, operator of Singapore casino venue Resorts World Sentosa, and casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment, operating venues in Macau and the Philippines, have been identified as the two contenders in the race.

A decision on the winning proposal is to take place in the coming months.

The candidate operators were named on Yokohama city’s website on Monday, which also revealed Genting Singapore has teamed up with Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings and Kajima Corporation as part of a powerful consortium.

Sega Sammy is one of the country’s largest pachinko game manufacturers and is a 45 per cent joint venture partner in South Korean integrated resort Paradise City, located in Incheon, alongside Paradise Co.

Melco has partnered with local construction and civil engineering firm Taisei Corporation.

A third submission from Shotoku Corp did not qualify.

News of Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts progressing to the next stage of Yokohama’s request for proposal comes just two weeks after Galaxy Entertainment Group announced that it would not take part.

Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts both withdrew in 2020.

Casino plans outlined

According to the implementation policy announced by Yokohama city in January of this year, the aim is for Yokohama’s integrated resort to be built to the world’s highest standards with Yamashita Pier, covering around 43 hectares, named as the candidate site.

The city officially announced its integrated resort bid in August 2019 and by December 2019 had started a request for concept, with seven major operators participating.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over substantial development costs, combined with extremely strict regulations, appears to have dampened the mood for many.

A city representative said that Yokohama was grateful to receive its two applications from Genting Singapore and Melco and that they were still seeking the highest standards as per their implementation policy.

The city will draft an area development plan with its selected operator to submit to the central government by April 2022.

The central government can approve plans for a maximum of three locations in the country and Yokohama will be competing with Osaka prefecture/city, as well as Wakayama and Nagasaki prefectures.

However, it is unlikely that the process for a Yokohama integrated resort will be a smooth one.

Resident groups opposing the bid are launching petition campaigns and those with interests in Yamashita Wharf have also raised their opposition to an integrated resort, rallying behind mayoral candidates who will oppose an integrated resort in the upcoming election scheduled for August.

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