Yokohama Plays Another Hand in Japan Casino Effort, Will Host January Integrated Resort Convention

Posted on: September 6, 2019, 09:20h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2019, 03:21h.

Yokohama is confirming its interest in being one of the destinations for yet-to-be announced gaming properties in Japan by announcing plans to hold a “1st Japan” integrated resort conference in January 2020.

Yokohama will host a gaming convention, its latest effort to land a casino. (Image: World Travel Guide)

News of the conference broke less than three weeks after business groups and policy makers in Japan’s second-largest city made public their desire to be home to at least one of the three gaming properties the national government is expected to approve. The Yokohama Integrated Resort Industry Exhibition Executive Committee, a local business group pushing to make the city a gaming destination, will organize the conference, and it will be hosted by Innovent, Inc., a Japanese trade show operator.

The immersion of the IR market is starting to become a reality, leading to high demand for trade fairs in the business community,” said an Innovent statement. “We will be holding an expo with all the products and services essential to achieving a Japanese IR, all under one roof.”

The “1st Japan” phrase is branding, and should not be taken to mean that Yokohama is hosting the country’s first gaming-related conference. Osaka, another city competing for a casino, held a business confab earlier this year under the “1st Japan” brand, and a similar expo is slated for December in Hokkaido.

“This is an industrial trade fair specializing in integrated resorts that will be held for the first time in the Tokyo metropolitan area, following Osaka (held in May 2019) and Hokkaido (to be held in December 2019),” said Innovent.

Yokohama Wrangling

Located in the Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama is home to 3.75 million people, making it a desirable location for gaming companies. The city’s viability as a home to one or more casinos doesn’t mean that the idea is fully supported there.

In July, the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association, two local trade groups, stepped up pressure on the city’s mayor, Fumiko Hayashi, to block an integrated resort. Those groups have other ideas for the region, including a major non-gaming convention area and high-end hotel along with efforts to possibly land a Formula 1 race and potentially attract a Disney venue of some kind.

The trade associations fear Disney wouldn’t be interested in Yokohama if the city also featured a gaming property. A poll published in August 2018 noted almost universal opposition among ordinary citizens in Yokohama to their city hosting an integrated resort.

Still, some operators are open to the idea of doing in business in the city. Las Vegas Sands recently said it’s focusing on Tokyo, Japan’s largest city, and Yokohama in its bid in the country, while Melco Resorts is also examining possibilities in the area.

Other Options

While Sands is focusing on Tokyo and Yokohama, and Melco Resorts is seemingly open to any of Japan’s three largest cities, MGM been steadfast in its commitment to putting an integrated resort in Osaka.

Rival Wynn Resorts has not overtly stated a preference for a particular metropolitan area in the Land of the Rising Sun. But earlier this week, the company said if it wins a Japan license, it would build the world’s largest casino there, and that it could spend up to $9 billion on that project.

Osaka is appealing to operators because it’s hosting the 2025 World Expo. Conversely, there are some concerns about Tokyo’s ability to swiftly act on a casino project, because the city is gearing up to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.