National

Yokohama to join race to host casinos

Other contenders include Osaka, Wakayama and Nagasaki

Kyodo

The city of Yokohama will join the race to host casinos, city government sources said Monday.

Japan only recently legalized the facilities, which officials refer to as “integrated resorts.” They are planned to be built by the mid-2020s.

The prefecture and city of Osaka as well as the prefectures of Wakayama and Nagasaki have already entered the race.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi may announce the city’s candidacy later this week at a news conference, the sources said.

Under the integrated resorts promotion law, enacted in July 2018, Japan aims to open the first batch of casino resorts — comprising hotels, conference rooms and shops — in up to three areas of the country.

The port city with a population of some 3.75 million is considering building the resorts at the 47-hectare Yamashita Wharf, adjacent to popular sightseeing spot Yamashita Park, the sources said.

The city government will submit to a regular session of the local assembly in September a draft extra budget covering ¥260 million for the bidding process. The cash would permit the hiring of additional staff, they added.

In March, the Cabinet approved requirements for the envisioned casino resorts. These include large hotels of more than 100,000 sq. meters allocated to guest rooms.

The central government has not yet said on what criteria it will judge locations. But the Yokohama mayor is declaring her hand now so that no time is lost when the central government makes its move, the sources said.

Yokohama asked 12 casino operators in May to estimate turnover and impact on other businesses. The figure, they reported, was up to ¥1.6 trillion.

The city has also briefed residents on the casino plan.

The local chamber of commerce and industry urged the mayor to apply to host the resort, while a questionnaire for residents revealed some concerns about gambling addiction and crime.

Furthermore, Yamashita Wharf is the subject of another redevelopment plan focused on building tourist spots and attractions. A local association of warehousing business operators at the wharf remains opposed to the casino project.

In the Kansai region, Osaka and Wakayama are aggressively lobbying for a casino.

In May, Osaka hosted the Japan IR Expo, which was attended by international casino operators.

Entertainment and construction companies, banks and dozens of firms from around the world hoping to get involved were also present.

In the city of Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, plans have been drawn up for a casino resort at the Dutch-style theme park Huis Ten Bosch.

Nagasaki officials predict a casino facility at the site could see 7.4 million visitors a year.