The mayor of Japan’s Yokohama city says the metropolis (pictured) is “going ahead with the integrated resort (IR) plan, in accordance with the central government”. But she added there might be fresh talks with private-sector firms interested in acting as partners, in order to understand their latest ideas.
Fumiko Hayashi was referring to an IR as large-scale casino complexes are known in that country. Her comments came in during a Tuesday plenary session of Yokohama city council, in response to questions from council members, according to information collated by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent.
An IR was “needed to revitalise tourism and MICE for Yokohama city,” stated Ms Hayashi, referring latterly to meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions business.
“It is likely that IR operators and developers have been reconsidering and revising their IR plans for Yokohama city. Therefore, the city is considering having [further] discussions with the RFC participants,” she added. That was a reference to international casino firms that had already taken part in Yokohama’s request-for-concept (RFC) phase, in the city’s tilt at having a casino resort.
Local governments wishing to have a casino resort must first find a private-sector partner, and then apply to the national government for permission to create a venue. Up to three such facilities are to be permitted in a first phase of casino liberalisation in Japan.
On August 19, Yokohama had announced a delay in issuing its local implementation policy for an IR – and by implication the city’s request-for-proposal phase – citing the fact the national government had not yet issued its own basic policy on IRs.
On August 5, Toshihide Hirahara, a deputy mayor of Yokohama, had said the city planned to go back to private-sector entities that had expressed interest in an IR scheme there, to see whether their previous financial modelling on such a project remained viable in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary under outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe – and tipped by some as his likely replacement – said in a Friday interview that the national policy of introducing casino resorts was vital to the country’s plan for promoting inbound tourism, and that he would proceed with it, if he got the top job.
Some major casino brands had already pulled out of contention for Yokohama.
On August 4, Matt Maddox, chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd, said the firm was “pretty much ceasing” its efforts in Japan regarding pursuit of a casino project there. His comments came shortly after it emerged the United States-based group – parent of Macau operator Wynn Macau Ltd – had closed its office in Yokohama.
But Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, chairman and chief executive of Macau casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, said on August 20, in commentary on its second-quarter earnings, that it had an “unwavering commitment” to getting a Japan licence. In September last year, the firm described Yokohama as a priority target.
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