Only about a week after a public hearing was held in Yokohama, Japan to discuss the possibility of an integrated resort (IR) coming to the area, the opposition is increasing its efforts to prevent the city from becoming a gambling hub. Casino operators are highly interested in the prospects of a venue in Japan’s second-largest city – at least ten have already said they would bid for Yokohama – and local politicians are in favor, as well. However, this is about it – a poll from last August showed that 97% of the local population opposes the idea, and some trade groups are stepping up their efforts to keep an IR out of Yokohama.
The Yokohama Harbor Resort Association and the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association are putting more pressure on Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi in an effort to convince him to back off the IR plans. According to Nippon, they have sent a letter to the mayor, reminding him of the results of that August poll and stating, “Operating an IR casino over the objections of an unpersuaded public is totally unacceptable.”
Those trade groups that don’t want the IR have a different idea in mind for the area where the venue would most likely be built, Yamashita Bay. Instead of an IR, they believe that an auto racing track would attract more tourists and business travelers and could ultimately become part of the Formula 1 (F1) racing schedule. This, despite the fact that F1 has seen declining popularity consistently over the past couple of years as public attendance and TV viewership fall. Italy and the U.K., among others, have already removed live TV coverage.
The trade groups are also interested in trying something else. They want to see if Walt Disney Co. would be interested in possibly building a family-friendly resort in the area and are concerned that a gambling facility would be detrimental to that possibility. They assert that some type of non-gambling venue would ultimately be more valuable than a casino and that an international convention center, in lieu of a resort, could bring as much as $18.7 billion in revenue to the area each year.
Japan is going to select three locations in the initial round of license issuance. It could be that, because of the extreme public opposition, Yokohama will lose its favored status during the first round and another site chosen. However, the city shouldn’t be counted out completely – if it isn’t selected for one of the first three destinations, there’s a good chance it will reappear if, and when, additional licenses are granted by Japanese regulators.