Yokohama ready to set up IR committee

By Mia Chapman Updated
Yokohama committee opposed to casino referendum 

The government in the Japanese city of Yokohama last week said it would submit an ordinance to the city’s assembly to set up an independent selection committee to choose its private sector partner for a tilt at a casino resort.

GGR Asia reports that such large-scale casino complexes are known in Japan as integrated resorts or “IRs”.

The committee will consist of seven people adjudged to be independent of the local government, but expert in matters related to IRs.

The committee will subsequently report to the city assembly regarding its work.

A maximum of three casino resorts will be allowed in Japan in a first phase of liberalisation, and cities or prefectures qualified to have one will need to make a bid to the national government once they have chosen commercial partners for such schemes.

Yokohama city is due to announce its IR implementation policy by the end of March and to launch its partner selection via a request-for-proposal process between April and December.

Yokohama will have to prepare and submit an integrated resort plan to the national government between January 4, 2021, and July 30 that year.

Japan’s central authorities said last month they planned to stick to a previously mentioned schedule for the application period during which local governments can seek the right to host a casino resort.

In late December, it emerged that seven entities that are already gaming operators in their own right had submitted concepts to Yokohama regarding IR schemes.

Yokohama’s suitors included Genting Singapore, operator of Resorts World Genting casino complex in Singapore.

On Tuesday, that firm said it had won overwhelming approval from its shareholders to pledge up to US$10 billion in investment in pursuit of a casino resort project in Japan.

In other developments, last Tuesday in Aichi prefecture, it was announced it intended to extend the deadline of its request-for-information process – aimed at private-sector firms regarding a potential integrated resort – from the end of March to the end of May.

It began the process in December.

The extension was due to the delay of the announcement of the national government’s integrated resort basic policy, said Aichi.

The RFI is reportedly for Aichi to determine whether or not to tilt at an integrated resort.

The governor, Hideaki Omura, said in a decision on the matter would be made after April.

The potential site would be reclaimed land associated with the Central Japan International Airport – a facility known as Chubu Centrair International Airport, Nagoya – which is owned by Aichi prefecture.

Matters raised by Aichi in its request-for-information included: the basic concept, market analysis, entire property plan, its economic impact, organisation for development and operation and measures to enhance the attractiveness of the host area in relation to tourism.

Japanese residents cautious about casino industry

A survey conducted by a Japanese newsagency has found that 71 per cent of those polled in Japan believe their government should revisit plans to embrace integrated resorts, amid a cloud of bribery that has ensnared several politicians and a Chinese gaming company. reported last month that the poll found that 70.6 per cent of those queried want the Japanese government to launch a review.

Just 21 per cent of those polled believe the country’s plans to embrace casino gaming should proceed.

The Integrated Resorts Promotion Act was passed in Japan in 2016, setting the stage for legalised casinos.

However, swirling graft allegations have promoted some policymakers there to launch an opposition bill to IRPA, which is expected to be introduced on January 20.

A member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party Tsukasa Akimoto was arrested by the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s office on Christmas Day.

Akimoto, who directed Japan’s casino gaming policy from August 2017 to October 2018, is accused of taking cash, airfare and hotel rooms from, the Chinese online and sports betting firm at the centre of the scandal.

Japanese authorities believe Akimoto disbursed some of that cash to five other politicians in the country, and that the graft was intended to help land a license in Hokkaido Prefecture.

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