Politics

Casino Opposition in Tokyo Gains Power During Metropolitan Assembly Election

Tokyo has not publicly announced its intentions to bid on one of Japan’s three forthcoming integrated casino resort licenses. After Sunday’s Metropolitan Assembly election, the odds of the country’s capital city entering the commercial gaming race only lengthened. 

A man in Tokyo walks past a poster board displaying candidates for the city’s Metropolitan Assembly election on Sunday, July 4. Japan’s controlling Liberal Democratic Party lost seats, possibly suggesting growing opposition to casinos. (Image: Reuters)

During Sunday’s city assembly election, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — the controlling party in Japan’s National Diet legislature and the party of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga — won just 33 seats of the 127-seat assembly. Its sister party, the Komeito, won 23 seats. Together, the alliance failed to win a majority power position in the assembly. 

Meanwhile, parties that have voiced opposition to integrated resorts (IR) made gains in the assembly. Anti-casino parties include Tokyo Citizens First, which won 31 seats, the Japanese Communist Party with 19 seats, and Constitutional Democratic Party with 15 seats. 

I’ll humbly accept the fact that the LDP and Komeito couldn’t win a majority as we promised,” Suga said Monday morning. “I imagine there are various factors [contributing to the loss]. But the party headquarters and our Tokyo branch will coordinate to analyze the outcome and prepare for the next election.”

“[The election] meant parties opposing the casino resort initiative in the country have expanded their influence in the regional body,” added GGRAsia. 

Yokohama Casino

Suga is pressing forward with his predecessor Shinzo Abe’s wishes to use casino resorts as entertainment and leisure destinations that will increase and grow Japan’s tourism industry. But there are plenty of opponents to casinos, and that’s resulted in only four cities officially declaring their candidacy for one of the three operating licenses.

Yokohama, Osaka, Nagasaki, and Wakayama are accepting formal bids from casino consortiums. Yokohama has two qualifying schemes from Genting Group and Melco Resorts.

But there is a mounting campaign in Yokohama to reject a casino play. That’s being led by Hachiro Okonogi, who shockingly announced his candidacy for Yokohama mayor last month. Okonogi, a longtime Diet representative and member of the LDP, has revealed an anti-casino attitude in hopes of ousting Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi, an LDP member herself, but one who supports the casino initiative.

The general opinion among gaming analysts in the region is that Tokyo would consider entering the IR race, but only if Yokohama folds on its casino pursuit. 

COVID-19 Concerns

Along with casinos, a major factor for the LDP losing seats during Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Election was ongoing COVID-19 worries. A resurgence in the coronavirus because of variant strains caused Japan to report 716 new cases over the weekend, a more than five-week high.

Tokyo is in the midst of preparing for the 2021 Summer Olympics. The 2020 postponed games are set to begin July 23. 

Suga, who replaced Abe in September of 2020 after he stepped down because of health reasons, is staking his 2021 general election campaign on holding a successful Olympics. But even if it should go off without causing a surge in COVID-19, an exit poll conducted by the Tokyo Broadcasting System on Sunday found that 57 percent of respondents said they believe the 2021 Summer Games should be called off. 

Devin O'Connor

Gaming Legislation, Politics, Casino Business, Entertainment----Devin O’Connor’s passion for politics and background in the world of pop culture television give him insight into the gaming industry backstories that often drive news these days. After graduating from Penn State University with a theater arts degree, he worked at MTV Networks/Viacom from 2005 to 2010 as a writer and producer, where his credits included Total Request Live, New Year's Eve specials, and a special featuring poker superstar Daniel Negreanu. He later moved on to the HGTV/DIY Network, where he created, wrote, and produced three series specials: That's So House Hunters, That's So 80s, and That's So 90s. Devin came on board with Casino.org in 2014. He lives in Pennsylvania, and is an avid marathoner, having completed 15 races to date. Email: devin.oconnor@casino.org

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