On September 10th, the new mayor of Yokohama officially announced the city’s withdrawal from the competition for the Government’s permit to host an integrated casino resort (IR) because of local concerns regarding problem gambling and possible negative effects on public safety.
In his first policy speech that took place earlier today at a local assembly, Takeharu Yamanaka, who got elected to the mayoral position in August, revealed that the city government is set to immediately block the ongoing bidding process for one of the three integrated casino resorts licenses that will be awarded by the Central Government of Japan.
Previously, there have been reports about the possible withdrawal of the second-most populous city in Japan from the competition for permission to establish a large entertainment complex, which comprises a luxurious casino, hotels, as well as shopping, conference and entertainment facilities, especially when it became clear that Mr. Yamanaka got elected as the mayor of Yokohama. During his campaign, the now-city mayor has highlighted the importance of the anti-casino movement, which was supported by several opposition parties.
The official announcement of the city’s withdrawal from the bidding process for the casino operating license comes at a time when the Japanese casino expansion project is facing some difficulties because some key foreign gambling companies had said they were no longer interested in operating a casino in the country amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
New Yokohama Mayor Does Not Support Casino Gambling Expansion
The Japanese Government is expected to announce the selected three locations to host the planned integrated casino resorts in the period from October 2021 to April 2022. The move has come as part of the country’s efforts to expand its gambling sector by adding casino gambling to the available gambling services that could make Japan a more preferred destination for tourists.
Now, the city of Yokohama will stay away from the bidding process for one of the three integrated casino resort licenses. In his first policy speech, the 48-year-old mayor explained that the decision had been taken in response to the opinions of citizens who were against the IR project.
The former mayor of Yokohama, Fumiko Hayashi, has been an avid supporter of the Government’s decision to expand the gambling sector of Japan by the addition of casino gambling services. Ms. Hayashi was willing to open a casino resort in the city in the late 2020s. However, the lack of public support for the project cost her the mayoral position, as she failed to secure a four 4-year term in the latest election that took place on August 22nd.
The now-mayor Takeharu Yamanaka also managed to defeat another candidate supported by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which puts additional pressure on his Government and the policies associated with the planned expansion of the Japanese casino sector. Mr. Saga has promoted the casino expansion project since he occupied the position of chief Cabinet secretary under his predecessor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The withdrawal of Yokohama from the bidding process for a casino operating license leaves three competitors for the permits – the Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka, Nagasaki Prefecture and Wakayama Prefecture. They have teamed up with operators from the US, Austria and Canada, respectively.