• Kyodo

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The new mayor of Yokohama on Friday announced the withdrawal of the city’s bid to host a casino resort, citing local concerns about gambling addiction and impacts on public safety.

Takeharu Yamanaka, who was elected last month on an anti-casino platform with backing from opposition parties, said in his first policy speech at the local assembly that the municipal government will immediately halt the ongoing process of bidding for a so-called integrated resort — facilities that comprise casinos, hotels and shopping facilities.

The announcement by the head of the second most populous city in the nation after Tokyo came as the country’s casino project is at a standstill due to the withdrawal of interest by key foreign operators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The government plans to pick up to three locations between October and April next year for integrated resorts under legislation that cleared the Diet in 2018 to legalize casino gambling.

“In response to the voices of citizens opposed to the integrated resort project, I hereby declare the withdrawal of the bid,” the 48-year-old mayor said.

Former Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi declared in August 2019 her intention to open a casino resort in the late 2020s in the city. But amid public opposition to the project, she failed to secure a fourth four-year term in the Aug. 22 mayoral election.

In the mayoral race, Yamanaka also defeated a candidate backed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, dealing a significant blow to his government.

Suga, who is elected to the House of Representatives from a Yokohama district, last week announced that won’t seek re-election as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party — bringing his term as prime minister to an end by late September — amid mounting criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic.

Suga has promoted the country’s casino project since he was chief Cabinet secretary under his predecessor, Shinzo Abe.

So far, the city of Osaka and Osaka Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture have declared their intention to bid for resorts, teaming up with operators from the United States, Canada and Austria, respectively.

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