Japanese Citizens in Yokohama Almost Unanimously Oppose Casinos

Posted on: September 5, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: September 5, 2018, 11:40h.

A staggering 94 percent of Yokohama citizens says they have “negative” viewpoints on allowing an integrated casino resort to be built in Japan’s second most populated city.

Yokohama Japan casino integrated resort
Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi is neutral on the city hosting a casino. Her constituents are not. (Image: Free as the Ocean Blog/IISD/Casino.org)

Asian gaming media outlet GGRAsia reports that a recent survey conducted by the local government was responsible for compiling the data. City officials are in the process of forming a four-year plan, and the input on commercial gambling was one such issue addressed.

Japan’s National Diet approved Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill (IRIB) in July. Three multibillion-dollar casino properties are authorized under the legislation, but prefectures have the right to withdraw their candidacies from hosting such venues.

Abe is trying to expand the tourism industry in Japan, but casinos remain highly unpopular among the general public. A nationwide poll conducted by the Kyodo news agency earlier this year found that more than 65 percent of citizens are “outright opposed” to the integrated resorts.

No Yokohama

With roughly 3.7 million residents, it comes as no surprise that Yokohama was on the shortlist for the numerous casino operators hoping to land one of the coveted gaming permits.

In a report published in April, Morgan Stanley said Tokyo, Japan’s most populated city with over 9.2 million people, “seems to be busy with the Olympics” instead of focused on putting together a casino resort bid. Tokyo, Japan’s capital city, is hosting the 2020 Summer Games.

With few indications that officials in Tokyo and Yokohama are ready to bet on gambling, casino operators like MGM Resorts and Melco Resorts are looking for the next best thing, and that is Osaka. Officials there have strongly embraced an IR, and Governor Ichiro Matsui has met with casino reps more than 100 times since May 2017.

Osaka is Japan’s third largest city with roughly 2.6 million locals. Matsui said he wants to have the casino resort open ahead of its hosting of the 2025 World Expo.

Playing the Game

Japan’s entry into commercial gambling has the attention of the gaming industry’s biggest players. Five of the six licensees in Macau, Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Wynn, Melco, and Galaxy Entertainment, are all expected to make serious plays for one of the concessions.

“I just came from Japan yesterday,” Melco Resorts founder and CEO Lawrence Ho told Bloomberg in May.

I told the people if it took two years, five years, 10 years from now, I’ll be there. Maybe not all of the other companies, but we will be there. Other than Macau, Japan is the greatest opportunity in the lifetimes of all of the operators.”

A government advisor on the casino regulations say operators will need to unite with Japanese companies and prefecture governments to collectively make their federal bids. Abe’s Cabinet held an “Explanation Meeting” last month to detail the process, and representatives from some 40 municipalities attended.

However, Ho doesn’t believe formal bidding will begin until late next year or 2020. Japan only recently announced the formation of its Casino Administration Commission, an agency that will oversee the permit issuance process. The 100-member group won’t be up and running until sometime in 2019.