Yokohama Mayor Open to Discussions with New Gaming Companies

Posted on: September 10, 2020, 10:38h. 

Last updated on: September 10, 2020, 12:41h.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said she’s willing to entertain conversations with gaming companies that previously haven’t expressed interest in the city in an effort to hear out new approaches.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi is open to talking with new gaming companies about IR plans in her city. (Image: LinkedIn)

Japan’s ambitions to become a major integrated resort hub were dealt a blow with the recent resignation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who cited health reasons for his departure. That news sent pro-gaming politicians in the Land of the Rising Sun scrambling to shore up relationships with operators that were already damaged by delays and bureaucratic snafus.

Hayashi acknowledges some gaming companies may be changing their opinions of her city, the second-largest in the country.

It is likely that IR operators and developers have been reconsidering and revising their IR plans for Yokohama city,” she said in an interview with GGRAsia.“Therefore, the city is considering having [further] discussions with the request for concept (RFC) participants.”

The coronavirus pandemic and now Abe’s resignation are seen as new delays, making the timeline murkier regarding when Japan will name the three cities that will be home to the country’s first gaming properties.

Precarious Position

Over the course of 2019 and into the early part of this year, Yokohama was positioned as one of the gaming industry’s preferred destinations in Japan, drawing intense interest from some of the world’s largest operators.

That front-runner status was dealt a major blow in May when Las Vegas Sands said it was pulling out of the Japan competition. The largest US gaming company by market value was targeting Yokohama for an integrated resort, but noted government regulations and policy framework made the project increasingly unattractive from a financial perspective.

That move by Sands was seen as negative commentary against Japan’s gaming ambitions because it was widely believed policymakers there want companies with deep Asia-Pacific operating experience, something LVS has via dominant positioning in Macau and Singapore.

For Yokohama, the hits didn’t end there. Last month, Wynn Resorts said it’s closing its office in the city, through the Encore operators says it retains interest in Japan.

Galaxy Entertainment, Genting Singapore, and Melco Resorts & Entertainment are still interested in Yokohama. Melco CEO Lawrence Ho recently affirmed as much.

What’s Next for Yokohama

Hayashi didn’t mention specific operators that her city is planning to engage in talks. With LVS and Wynn out of the running and MGM Resorts International focused on Osaka, the field of US-based gaming entities with the resources to commit to a Yokohama integrated resort is scant.

That group is further reduced in size when considering Caesars Entertainment isn’t eyeing international expansion at this time and that tribal operators expressing interest in Japan are eyeing smaller cities where construction costs would be far less than in Yokohama.

The positive for Japan’s gaming hopes is that Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary under Abe, favors forging ahead with integrated resort plans, and he’s considered the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) front-runner to replace the outgoing prime minister.