Fumiko Hayashi, the mayor of Yokohama city (pictured) in Japan, announced on Thursday that she will run for a fourth term in the mayoral election scheduled for August 22. Ms Hayashi, who supports the city’s effort to host a casino resort, became the ninth contender in the mayoral election. Seven of the candidates are said to be against a casino project in the city.
The 75-year-old mayor told reporters on Thursday that a proposal for the city to host a casino complex, known in Japan as an integrated resort (IR), is “very important for Yokohama’s future.”
“I’ll continue to promote (the IR plan),” she said, as quoted by Japanese newswire service Jiji Press.
According to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, Ms Hayashi is said to have the support from one of the city’s largest business community groups, led by the Yokohama Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The latter body is reportedly Yokohama’s largest business organisation and has backed the city’s IR policy.
Last week, the Yokohama branch of Japan’s majority governing group, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), decided to allow a free vote system for the upcoming mayoral election, clearing the way for some of its members to support Ms Hayashi.
That decision came after Hachiro Okonogi, a LDP representative in the Lower House of Japan’s parliament, announced he would enter the Yokohama mayoral race, and oppose the city’s IR plan. Mr Okonogi, described as a close ally of prime minister Yoshihide Suga, was until late June chairman of Japan’s National Public Safety Commission.
Mr Okonogi’s move means the anti-IR vote in Yokohama’s mayoral election could be further split. The casino resort plan has long faced stiff opposition from groups of locals. In January, the Yokohama Municipal Assembly rejected a proposal for a referendum on the issue, with the LDP and Komeito members voting against it.
Yokohama concluded in June its request-for-proposal (RFP) submission period regarding commercial partners for its tilt at getting a casino complex. Genting Singapore Ltd, operator of Singapore casino venue Resorts World Sentosa, and casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd have been identified as the two contenders in the race. A decision on the winning proposal is to take place in the coming months.
Japan’s IR Implementation Act, key legislation in the country’s steps towards a licensed casino industry, is to take effect on July 19, according to a resolution on Tuesday of the national cabinet.
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