Japan Trade Groups Step up Pressure on Yokohama Mayor as Integrated Resort Opposition Grows

Posted on: July 2, 2019, 11:00h. 

Last updated on: July 2, 2019, 03:41h.

The Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association are intensifying pressure on the city’s mayor, Fumiko Hayashi, to oppose an integrated resort in Japan’s second-largest city.

The waterfront district in Yokohama where some remain opposed to casino gaming. (Image: Medibank)

Ten months ago, Yokohama garnered at least a dozen proposals from casino operators following a request for information (RFI) round. Among the well-known gaming companies participating in that RFI process were Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts, three of the four largest US-based casino operators.

However, opposition to an integrated resort in Yokohama is vehement among the city’s residents. As Casino.org reported last year, an August 2018 poll of locals revealed 97 percent had negative feelings regarding a casino potentially coming to their city.

The Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association are seizing on those feelings and leaning on Mayor Hayashi to block efforts to bring a gaming property to the city.

Operating an IR casino over the objections of an unpersuaded public is totally unacceptable,” the associations said in a letter to Hayashi, reports AGB Nippon.

Some Yokohama business leaders are embracing the idea of casino gaming in their city, but as the two aforementioned associations confirm, that support is not uniform around the area.

Other Plans

Yokohama’s Yamashita Bay is believed to be the preferred area in which to put an integrated resort, but the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association have other ideas about to attract more business travelers and tourists to the region.

Trade groups opposing gaming properties are angling to build an auto racing track that could eventually land on the F1 schedule, a major convention center and a luxury hotel that does not feature a casino. The convention center and high-end hotel, if constructed, could bring 20 million visitors to Yokohama annually with an estimated economic benefit of $18.7 billion, according to AGB Nippon.

Additionally, the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association appear intent on wooing Walt Disney Co. in some fashion, noting that the California-based amusement park and entertainment giant could be put off by operating near a casino.

In alphabetical order, Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama – Japan’s three largest cities – are widely viewed as the favorites to land one of the country’s prized gaming licenses. Tokyo, the capital city, is preparing for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Yokohama offers the most opposition to casinos, prompting some operators to focus on Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city.

For example, MGM Resorts’ focus on Osaka is long-standing and well-known while Las Vegas Sands recently signaled it could be focusing its Japan efforts on that city as well.

Trying To Be Flexible

While rivals Las Vegas Sands and MGM emphasize Osaka, Wynn Resorts has indicated a willingness to be flexible about the location of a Japan casino. Wynn CEO Matt Maddox recently confirmed that his company is working with a Japanese consortium, but he did not say the Encore operator is dedicated to one city over another.

As for any plans Caesars has for Japan, those could be on hold as the company is being acquired by Eldorado Resorts. Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg said days after the deal was announced that international expansion opportunities have to be “stupendous for us to be running in that direction.”

Is is expected that in the coming months, the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce & Industry will launch an effort to combat the anti-integrated resort rhetoric and possibly bring gaming to the city.