Yokohama Officially Shelves Integrated Casino Resort Plans

  • Yokohama Mayor Takeharu Yamanaka announced the withdrawal of the region’s IR bid
  • The topic of integrated resorts was a contentious issue during August’s mayoral election
  • Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd. were the two potential partners
  • Only Osaka, Nagasaki, and Wakayama are now in the reckoning for an IR license in Japan
bird's eye view of Yokohama Japan
New Yokohama Mayor Takeharu Yamanaka has announced the city’s official withdrawal of its bid for one of three integrated resort (IR) licenses in Japan. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A contentious issue

Yokohama has officially pulled out of the race for one of three integrated resort (IR) licenses in Japan. Mayor Takeharu Yamanaka confirmed in a speech on Friday that the city was officially withdrawing its IR bid.

electoral campaign with an anti-IR agenda

Former Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi declared in August 2019 the city’s plans to submit a bid for an IR. However, the initiative turned out to be a contentious issue and was a big focus during the mayoral election that took place last month. The recently elected mayor of Yokohama had been running his electoral campaign with an anti-IR agenda. Hayashi’s office, which has been focusing on promoting the IR initiative, will be abolished on October 1.

Integrated resorts in Japan will be able to contain on-site facilities such as a casino, hotel, convention center, and entertainment spaces.

The Yokohama Chamber of Commerce and Industry submitted a request on September 6 to Mayor Yamanaka regarding the promotion and economic measures for an IR project. The body’s chairman, Takashi Ueno, believes an IR project is vital for the future reconstruction of the city’s economy. By withdrawing the bid, he warned, “we will not be able to anticipate the robust future development of Yokohama that the mayor is hoping for.”

Potential partners out of luck

There were two potential partners for a possible IR in Yokohama as the selection process came to a close in June this year. Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd. were the contenders aiming to partner with the city to realize the casino resort project.

Genting Singapore expressed disappointment and surprise

After hearing the news of Yokohama’s official withdrawal from the IR process, Genting Singapore expressed disappointment and surprise at the decision. A company statement mentioned how the management, board of directors, and various partners had spent a lot of time preparing its bid. Genting Singapore said it had “proposed a significant investment that will benefit the City of Yokohama and its community, and at the same time make Yokohama a world-class tourism destination.”

Only three regions remain

Now that Yokohama has withdrawn its bid for an IR license, only Osaka, Nagasaki, and Wakayama appear to still be in the running. There is no guarantee that the national government will hand out all three of these licenses in Japan.

Reacting to Yokohama’s decision, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said this would not impact Osaka’s intentions to pursue a license. Osaka looks like it will be going with the MGM Resorts International and Orix Corp. consortium as its partner on the IR project. The current estimate is that an IR in Osaka could cost as much as $9.1bn.

Nagasaki has entered an IR development plan with Casinos Austria, while Wakayama is partnered with Clairvest.

Numerous other regions and casino companies have pulled out of the reckoning for an IR license because of uncertainty about the selection rules and issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Japanese national government will be accepting local governments’ IR plans between October 2021 and April 28, 2022. The rough timeline for the opening of IRs is the second half of the 2020s.