Yokohama City Council Committee Opposes Proposed Referendum on Integrated Casino Resorts’ Policy

A City council committee of Yokohama has opposed a draft ordinance that proposed to organize a community referendum on matters associated with the city’s strategy in regard to proposed integrated casino resorts. According to information provided by the Japan correspondent of GGRAsia, the City council committee flagged against a referendum on casino policy. The formal vote on the issue is set to be held later today via a plenary meeting.

On January 7th, a meeting of the committee entitles to managing the general affairs and finance of the city of Yokohama was held, with 10 of its members in attendance. Six of them, who represented the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its smaller coalition partner Komeito, voted against the draft ordinance under which a referendum regarding the establishment of an integrated casino resort. Currently, the LDP has 36 seats in the 86-seat Yokohama city council, while Komeito holds 16.

According to reports, a number of anti-casino community campaigns had managed to gather more than 205,000 signatures (or about 6$ of the 3.72-million population of Yokohama) by November 2020 in an attempt to have a referendum held on the integrated casino resort issue. Reportedly, the tally of names was said to greatly surpass the number that is lawfully required to have such a referendum organized.

Yokohama Could Directly Proceed with RFP Phase of Integrated Casino Resort Application Process

The news that the City council committee is against the proposed referendum on the future of integrated casino resorts comes after a few days ago, the Mayor of Yokohama had a change of heart and opposed the planned ballot referendum. As CasinoGamesPro already reported, Ms. Fumiko Hayashi suddenly made a U-turn in her opinion on the matter, insisting that holding a referendum will result in a further delay of the IR casino application process.

The application process for holding the proposed integrated casino resorts has been delayed several times because of some lengthy procedures and the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. Although Ms. Hayashi’s previous promise to respect the people’s opinions on the matter and comply with it in case they are against the addition of an IR, she now said that the referendum would make the process unnecessary lengthy and would mean shelving the already-held discussions regarding the casino market liberalization.

If today’s vote on a referendum goes as expected for the legislative group backing the casino expansion, the city would directly proceed to the so-called request-for-proposal (RFP) phase of the application process. In this phase, the candidates who are willing to develop an integrated casino resort would have to present business plans.

The Japanese Government is to allow up to three integrated casino resorts in the country during the first phase of market liberalization. On December 18th, the Government confirmed the national basic policy on IRs and also officially confirmed that the local governments would have more than six months to submit their applications for the right to host such a resort. The central authorities would start accepting the submissions on October 1st, 2021, and the local governments will have until April 28th, 2022 to file their applications.