Yokohama launches fresh investigations of possible IR bid

Wasting no time after the passage of the IR Implementation Act, the Yokohama municipal authorities on Monday unveiled two initiatives: a public tender for an advisory firm to study a Yokohama IR bid and a call for information from IR operators.

The statements published by the municipal authorities claim that nothing has yet been decided: “Until now Yokohama, as part of our study of strategic urban development in the city center coastal area, has conducted research and analyses of fundamental matters regarding IRs, but at this stage we have not made any judgements about whether or not to introduce an IR.”

The statement also takes note of divided local opinion: “In Yokohama there are voices expressing the expectation that the introduction of an IR would stimulate tourism and the regional economy, but there are also voices expressing concern that the casino portion of an IR could cause addiction and a deterioration of public order.”

This is the fourth time that Yokohama sought private-sector studies about the possibility of hosting an IR. The first, published in March 2015, was conducted by the Japan Economic Research Institute. The second, published in March 2016, was carried out by Deloitte Tohmatsu. The third and most recent, published in March 2017, was conducted by EY.

The Yokohama authorities appear to have skipped a year due to the political sensitivity of the issue at the time of the Yokohama mayoral election campaign.

The request for information from IR operators is something new. The statement explains, “We ask operators to provide information about conducting an IR business in Yokohama, including possible development concepts, the economic and social effects of IRs, and the anticipated areas of concern and how they might be addressed.”

The deadline for bids from the advisory firms July 31, giving them only about a week to prepare (assuming that they weren’t informally tipped off in advance).

For the IR operators who wish to participate in information provision program, there will be an explanation session conducted on August 20, and then a submission period between September 10 and September 21.