Yokohama to Start Accepting IR Applications on February 5, Tender Requirements Now Available

  • Casino operators interested in the integrated resort project can apply between February 5-May 17
  • The RFP requires applicants to provide landscape designs and plans for public health measures
  • Japan's IR projects have faced significant delays in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Seven companies have expressed interest in bidding for the Yokohama-based IR since 2019
Yokohama city skyline at dusk
A contender for one of three Japanese integrated resort (IR) licenses, Yokohama can begin accepting applications from casino operators in February after it published its tender requirements this week. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update May 17, 2021: Galaxy Entertainment Group has announced its decision to pull out of the Yokohama RFP process, together with partner Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer from Monaco.

In a press release, the companies cited “world and business climate which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic” as a reason for their withdrawal. Galaxy added that it is still interested in pursuing an IR license in Japan. Genting Singapore, Melco Resorts and Entertainment, Sega Sammy, and Shotoku remain in the competition after applications closed on May 17.

Galaxy’s decision comes a week after Suncity Group withdrew its bid for a Wakayama integrated resort.

Applications open until May 17

In Japan, Yokohama authorities are all set to begin the city’s application process for an integrated resort (IR) project after publishing public tender requirements.

the city will choose an operator in the summer of 2021

On Thursday, the Yokohama government published its IR implementation policy. With this complete, casino operators can put their applications forward starting February 5. The application period will run until May 17. After a short period of deliberation, the city will choose an operator in the summer of 2021. The successful company will build and run Yokohama’s resort if officials grant the city a license.

The term ‘integrated resort’ refers to a large resort property that features both a hotel and a casino. Yokohama, the second-largest city in Japan by population, put itself forward for one of Japan’s three IR licenses. Nagasaki, Osaka, and Wakayama are also hoping to acquire licenses.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process requires interested companies to submit certain plans related to their proposal. Among these, operators must include landscape designs, plans for public health measures, and development ideas for areas surrounding the IR. The RFP requires the successful applicant to utilize the “economic and social effects” created through the project to “restore the city”.

Delays to Japan’s IRs

Yokohama first announced plans for an IR project bidding process in 2019. This would allow the city to accept applications from any casino operators interested in opening a Yokohama resort. However, Japan’s IR plans have faced a number of delays since then, mainly in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Originally, the application window for local governments to apply for one of Japan’s IR licenses was January to July 2021. However, because of disruption caused by COVID-19, officials pushed it back to October 2021, with the application period ending April 28, 2022. As a result, officials expect Japan’s first IR to open a year later than first thought, indicating 2026 at the earliest.

Wynn Resorts shut down its office in Yokohama following IR licensing setbacks

The delay caused some operators to withdraw from the race, choosing instead to focus on markets in which they’re already active. In August last year, Wynn Resorts shut down its office in Yokohama following IR licensing setbacks. The company described “an unprecedented negative impact” of coronavirus on IR plans at the time. Las Vegas Sands also withdrew from the race last year.

Who is still in the running?

A total of seven gambling companies have expressed interest in bidding for the Yokohama resort at some point since 2019. In addition to Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, Melco Resorts, Sega Sammy Holdings, Shotoku, Genting Singapore Limited, and Galaxy Entertainment all registered their interest.

Although Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts may have pulled out of the race for now, Yokohama’s RFP process allows considerable time for them to return if they so choose. Unlike the process found in other cities, Yokohama’s RFP includes a longer four-month period for applications.

While operators can only begin putting forward their Yokohama applications in February, the process is already well underway in Nagasaki. The city’s Request for Proposal process began on January 7. Interested parties can put forward their applications for initial screening until January 28. There are currently four gambling companies competing for the Nagasaki IR.