The upcoming mayoral campaign in Yokohama has suddenly turned into a massive threat to the ruling coalition’s support for the plans of a controversial integrated casino resort.
In June, a Lower House member of the Liberal Democratic Party – Hachiro Okonogi – revealed that he would enter the competition as an opponent of the integrated casino resort plans that have previously been unveiled by Prime Minister Yoshide Suga. This could put further pressure on the vote for the Yokohama casino, especially considering the fact that Yasuo Tanaka, former Governor of Nagano, and Takeharu Yamanaka, who is supported by Japan’s Constitutional Democratic Party, also revealed their opposition to the project.
On the other hand, Fumiko Hayashi, the incumbent Yokohama Mayor who supports the establishment of an integrated casino resort, is seeking re-election.
The poll that is to be held on August 22nd, would be mostly focused on plans for the establishment and operation of an integrated casino resort in the Minato Mirai waterfront business district of Yokohama. The proposal has long faced fierce opposition from local voters and, according to experts, the upcoming election could make the situation even more difficult.
At the beginning of the year, a proposal for a referendum on the issue was turned down by the Yokohama Municipal Assembly, with the Liberal Democrats and their Komeito allies voting against it despite the fact that about 190,000 signatures were gathered in support of the vote.
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With the tenure of Mayor Hayashi set to end in August 2021, making a decision on whether to proceed with the plans associated with casino expansion of the city or not has become a major issue. More pressure is added to the matter by the fact that Prime Minister Suga has been a supporter of the integrated casino resorts, as they could bring fresh money to local economies and attract foreign tourists.
Yokohama has been one of the front-runners for a maximum of three integrated casino resort licenses that are to be granted by the Japanese Government. Osaka, Nagasaki and Wakayama have also been pointed as the most possible sites to host such casino resorts. The Central Government has informed interested parties they are expected to submit their integrated casino resort development plans by April 2022.
Okonogi is not against the establishment of an integrated casino resort per se, especially considering the fact he voted in favor of the casino expansion at the time the measure was reviewed by the Central Government. He has also faced criticism for his past support for casino gambling and the following declaration of opposition to the IR plan.
In any case, Okonogi’s entrance into the competition for the position would be a major problem. She is expected to garner much of the vote from casino supporters but considering the strong opposition faced by the IR plans lately, the situation could become really difficult.
With no less than three candidates revealing they are against the casino plan, the anti-casino resort vote could turn out a massive hurdle for the city’s ambitions to become one of the first three casino license holders.