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The result of Yokohama’s mayor election cast another shadow over Japan’s ambitions to build massive casino complexes, a dynamic that was already under strain due to the withdrawal of interest from key foreign players in the in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Takeharu Yamanaka, a former professor at Yokohama City University, will become mayor on August 30. He said on Monday that he intended to make an “early stage” statement that Yokohama, next to Tokyo, would not apply to participate in the bidding process. to host a casino.

The central government has announced that it will license up to three cities to host so-called integrated resorts, which combine hotels, casinos, entertainment complexes and conference centers.

Yamanaka, who was supported by opposition parties, campaigned on an anti-casino platform. His victory heralds the end of the city’s candidacy to host one of the seaside resorts, according to many observers.

“It seems almost impossible for Yokohama to move forward with the election of Yamanaka-san,” Brendan Bussmann, partner of gaming industry consultants Global Market Advisors, told Nikkei Asia.

A roulette wheel spins inside Casino Venus, a fake gaming center set up in Tokyo before casinos were legalized in 2018 © Tomohiro Ohsumi / Bloomberg

“The anti-[integrated resort] the movement is fully established in the immediate future of Yokohama, as shown by the firm position of the elected mayor on the issue, ”he added.

Yokohama earlier this year solicited business proposals from industry players. Two consortia, one led by Genting Singapore and the other by Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts & Entertainment, have submitted plans to the city.

When Japan legalized casinos in 2018, many industry insiders believed the country had a chance of becoming the world’s second-largest casino destination after Macau, with some parties announcing they would spend $ 10 billion to develop. an integrated complex.

But the pandemic has clouded the outlook for facilities designed to attract large numbers of guests.

“We have seen tremendous progress over the past few years as cities like Osaka, Wakayama and Nagasaki continue to advance their development plans,” Bussmann added. “The pandemic has not helped matters, but it still remains a strong opportunity for investment and economic growth. “

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