Yokohama mayor still targets IR, Nagasaki gets renewed interest

Yokohama skyline

It’s still looking like Japan is going to make real progress with its integrated resort (IR) plans this year after having met a few challenges along the way. If the rollout continues as expected, the gaming world might know by the end of the year some of the details on the who, what, when and where of the projects. Yokohama, Osaka and Nagasaki are still on the shortlist of locations to host a venue, and Yokohama and Nagasaki are particularly busy trying to put their plans together. However, not everyone is on board.

The mayor of Yokohama, Fumiko Hayashi, isn’t making any friends. She’s already been a target of attempts to be removed from office because of her unwavering support for an IR, and her latest move isn’t sitting well with her detractors, either. Hayashi, who has led the city since 2009, promised that she would allow a public vote on the subject of an IR if enough signatures were gathered on a petition to support the vote. The group behind the initiative, Yokohama Citizens’ Group to Decide on a Casino, accepted her challenge, gathered the voted – more than had been required – and presented its results to the mayor. That was when Hayashi pulled a fast one.

The mayor decided that there was no need to allow the ballot referendum, asserting that it would cause further delays in a project that is going to proceed, no matter what. She explained, “A referendum means shelving the discussions that have occurred to date. Based on the discussions of the council, it is important to proceed steadily with the legal procedures.”

The citizen-led opposition group can still petition the council to allow the referendum; however, it shouldn’t get its hopes up. A representative of the group will reportedly make that petition this Thursday at a city council meeting, after which Yokohama’s IR course will be better understood.

Things appear to be heating up in Nagasaki, as well, but with a more positive slant. A local newspaper, the Nagasaki Shimbun, has said that there are at least three casino operators with existing properties in the US and Asia that are now showing interest in getting in on Japan’s IR activity. The news comes just ahead of the prefecture’s launch of its request-for-proposal (RFP) process, which it expects to get underway this Thursday. The additional contenders haven’t been named, but have reportedly already shown interest in getting in on Japan’s IR industry elsewhere in the country.

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