Anti-casino groups turn up the heat on Yokohama mayor

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi is facing renewed indications that the plan to build a major IR at Yamashita Pier will face fierce political opposition both from a significant portion of the business community and a majority of the population.

The Yokohama Harbor Transport Association and the Yokohama Harbor Resort Association—both led by Chairman Yukio Fujiki—sent a letter to Mayor Hayashi last week reiterating firm opposition to an IR bid.

“Operating an IR casino over the objections of an unpersuaded public is totally unacceptable,” the letter said.

It went on to predict that an international convention center at the site without a casino could attract 20 million visitors annually and create an overall economic ripple effect of about JPY2 trillion (about $18.7 billion). Moreover, potential family-friendly development partners such as Disney will not want to be associated with a casino, the letter contends.

It has also been revealed that of the 433 relevant comments from the public received by the city government last year, 94 percent of them expressed opposition to an IR bid.

Las Vegas Sands recently made clear that it no longer believes that an IR will be built in the Kanto region in the first round of bidding, though many of the other major international IR operators are still taking a wait and see approach.

The Yokohama Chamber of Commerce & Industry is expected to launch its own pro-IR organization within the next nine months.