The Mayor of the second largest city in Japan has been under growing pressure from Yokohama’s trade groups demanding that she stops any attempts at bringing an integrated resort to the city. Yokohama is currently being considered as a strong contender for one of the three licences for IR in Japan and the opposition could undermine its chances for success.
The general public in Yokohama is not in favour of the IR
Even though numerous businesses and local politicians are embracing the possibility of a casino facility coming into the city, the trade groups and citizens of Yokohama are not so thrilled by the prospect. According to a poll last August, when asked about their opinion on a casino being potentially built in their city, 97% of the locals responded negatively.
This sentiment was also projected in the letter that Mayor Fumiko Hayashi received from the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association. The groups called for her to cease all efforts to bring in the IR and stated that “operating an IR casino over the objections of an unpersuaded public is totally unacceptable.”
The trade groups have their own plans
While it is estimated that Yokohama casino could generate revenue of up to €7.1 billion with the annual EBITDA between €652 million and €1.7 billion, the opposing forces counter the economical benefits with a proposition of their own—a motor racing track, aiming for F1 inclusion, with a convention center and a luxury hotel—no casino—which they expect would result in an extra income of €18.7 billion and attract around 20 million visitors a year.
They have also been toying with the idea of striking some kind of deal with Walt Disney Co. to build a family-friendly resort. This only adds to their determination to prevent the construction of the IR as a gambling facility in the vicinity may put an end to such project before it even starts.
The dissent may push Yokohama down as a contender for Japan’s IR licence
With the race for the three IR licences in Japan in full swing, the massive opposition could seriously damage Yokohama’s standing. As of now, the city is one of the three most favoured candidates—side by side with Tokyo and Osaka—nevertheless, despite dozen of casino operators having submitted their proposals for Yokohama, some of them are choosing to concentrate on Osaka as the preferred location, put off by the continuing opposition.
Thus Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts already indicated they are competing for Osaka, while Wynn Resorts claims to be flexible about the location. Caesars, in the meantime, is going through an acquisition by Eldorado Resorts so it is uncertain what their move is going to be.
Yokohama Chamber of Commerce & Industry is likely to initiate an attempt to counter the anti-casino forces in the coming months and keep the city in the running for the IR licence.