Yokohama is officially making a run for one of Japan’s three commercial casino licenses.
The city yesterday published its request-for-proposal (RFP) timeline. Casino groups can submit their proposals to the city government beginning February 5. The deadline is May 17.
Following the submission period, the government will review the schemes and select a winner sometime this summer.
A potential casino in Japan’s second-largest city has plenty of opponents. A citizen-led referendum easily garnered the necessary signatures to submit the motion to the Yokohama City Council. However, the council quickly moved to reject the ballot effort.
Las Vegas Sands is considered the preeminent operator of integrated resorts. The company’s Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is often cited as the gold standard of the industry.
Japan was once considered the biggest opportunity in the global gaming industry since Macau. Sands, controlled at the time by the late Sheldon Adelson, saw the potential in Macau and invested heavily after acquiring licensure.
Sands, however, withdrew its candidacy in Japan last May.
“While my positive feelings for Japan are undiminished, and I believe the country would benefit from the business and leisure tourism generated by an Integrated Resort, the framework around the development of an IR has made our goals there unreachable,” Adelson said in a May statement.
Adelson died earlier this month at the age of 87. With the casino tycoon gone, and Sands in new control under acting CEO Robert Goldstein, all eyes are on Sands to see if it reconsiders Japan.
Sands was considered a front-runner for one of Japan’s three IR concessions. The company had been targeting Yokohama for its casino.
Yokohama’s proposal period, running roughly three and a half months, is considerably longer than other cities accepting casino presentations, including Osaka, Wakayama, and Nagasaki. Inside Asian Gaming reports that a person close to the Yokohama RFP process said the city opted for a lengthier bidding period in order to afford Sands adequate time to prepare a development, should its interest return.
Casino operators expected to bid in Yokohama include Melco Resorts, Sega Sammy, Galaxy Entertainment, Genting Singapore, and Wynn Resorts.
Yokohama’s RFP says plans should include a hotel and casino. The gaming space cannot occupy more than three percent of the resort’s total floor space. The planning document urges the casinos to create inviting landscapes, with an economically friendly design.
The Yokohama casino document also reveals some rather odd stipulations.
[The resort] should have an elegant interior and should be a place for social gathering for adults with dress codes that provide extraordinary experiences, and have a clean and high-class feel,” the tender pitch declares.
Japan’s IR ambitions are part of an effort to increase foreign visitor numbers by 60 million people annually by 2030. The casinos are expected to generate a $14.5 billion annual economic impact.