The mayor in the city of Yokohama (pictured), Japan’s second-largest metropolis by population, publicly declared on Thursday – for the first time – support for getting a casino resort there. Previously her public stance was of neutrality on the issue.
The news that Fumiko Hayashi was now backing such a plan was reported by a number of media outlets, including Reuters, and came during a news conference by the city government, that was streamed live online.
She is said to have reached the decision in July, but the public announcement was timed to coincide with the end of the summer holiday period in Japan and the fact that public money to promote such a policy would need to be obtained through the city council budget, via an application to be submitted next month.
“We must look to Yokohama’s future, the 20 to 30 years ahead,” Ms Hayashi reportedly stated.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to achieve growth and development, we need integrated resorts,” the city’s leader added.
Large-scale casino resorts – typically including big hotels, conference facilities and shops and known locally as integrated resorts or “IRs” – have been presented by Japan’s national government as a useful form of economic stimulus and a way to boost inbound international tourism.
Would-be host communities must first find private-sector partners, and then apply to the national government for the right to have such a facility. Up to three will be permitted in a first stage of market liberalisation.
Yokohama’s mayor reiterated that a 47-hectare (116-acre) site on the city’s waterfront at Yamashita pier was the preferred site for a casino complex.
But according to information collated by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, she acknowledged at the media briefing that there was not yet public consensus on such an initiative.
She said the city authorities would hold briefings on the topic in each of the city’s 18 wards, but appeared to rule out a local referendum on the matter.
A special effort would be made to win round an anti-casino lobby said to be made up of businesses that do not wish to vacate current premises around Yamashita pier, according to our correspondent.
It had been reported by local media on Monday that Ms Hayashi intended to secure a JPY260-million (US$2.4-million) budget from public funds to be spent on the city’s IR implementation policy.
A note earlier this month from brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd, said that two big-city IRs – possibly Yokohama and Osaka – and one in a smaller regional centre, might eventually generate in aggregate, gross gaming revenue (GGR) of US$7 billion to US$8 billion per year.
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