In Japan and the giant city of Yokohama could reportedly soon encounter a dearth of prospective foreign operators wanting to participate in the request for proposal (RFP) stage of its effort to secure one of the nation’s coming trio of integrated casino resort licenses.

According to a report from Inside Asian Gaming, the conurbation of some 3.7 million people had been seen as a frontrunner in the race for one of the three licenses with its envisioned gambling-friendly scheme for a 116-acre waterfront parcel of land near Yamashita Park having attracted initial interest from foreign operators such as Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited, Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited. But the source reported that the RFP phase of the city’s casino venture was delayed earlier this year owing to the coronavirus pandemic and is now not expected to be revived until the spring.

Survey sought:

The intervening months have reportedly given a group of Yokohama residents enough time to collect some 200,000 signatures calling for the local government to hold a citywide referendum on the whole matter, which has placed added pressure on mayor Fumiko Hayashi (pictured) ahead of elections scheduled for the autumn of next year. Joji Kokuryo, Managing Director for Japanese consultancy Bay City Ventures, purportedly stated that such an advisory plebiscite may not be held before February but could nevertheless represent a speed bump ahead of the federal government’s final submission deadline in July of 2022.

Kokuryo reportedly stated…

“Unfortunately, the voting results would not realistically come in time for operator consortiums to consider as a variable in making their decisions on bidding for Yokohama. The new national timeline for development plan submissions means that local governments need to start their RFP in March at the very latest but probably earlier. For operators and their consortium partners interested in Yokohama, they would have to move forward with preparations for the RFP with the risk of the city government acting on a negative result in any referendum vote and this is on top of the massive political risk of the mayoral election next autumn; ironically just before the submission period to the national government.”

Anticipated apprehension:

Ultimately, Kokuryo reportedly noted that Yokohama’s prospects of winning the right to host one of the three envisioned Las Vegas-style developments could well come down to the result of its upcoming mayoral election. Although Hayashi was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2013, her possible defeat by a candidate opposed to the scheme could well persuade the city’s officials to backtrack and pull the plug on efforts to win an integrated casino resort license.

Kokuryo reportedly pronounced…

“The referendum situation, regardless of the city council decision, is not making things any easier for Yokohama’s initiative or operators interested in taking part. These political issues are major points of concern for investors and operators.”