Investors still keen on Yokohama IR bid: officials

International casino operators are still interested in pursuing an integrated resort (IR) scheme in Japan’s Yokohama city, said some of the city’s leading officials. The local government also confirmed that it had no plans to change its schedule regarding the process to identify possible private-sector partners for its tilt at hosting a casino resort, despite the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The comments were made on Friday by Yokohama’s mayor Fumiko Hayashi and the city’s vice-mayor Toshihide Hirahara, in a question-and-answer session at the city council, according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent. In the Japan context, “integrated resort” or “IR” refers to a large-scale leisure complex featuring a casino and also space for conventions and exhibitions, along with other tourism facilities.

Yokohama city is expected to announce its IR implementation policy and its request-for-proposal (RFP) application requirements in August.

The economic impact of Covid-19 and the countermeasures for dealing with emergencies will be articulated in the IR plan that is to be jointly prepared by the Yokohama government and the would-be operator partner, said the two top officials.

They added that the local government’s plan had “not changed,” even “under the coronavirus environment.”

Up to three such venues will be permitted in Japan in a first phase of liberalisation. After selecting a partner, local governments will need to submit their plan to the national authorities for consideration.

Companies previously identified as suitors for a Yokohama IR project included Genting Singapore Ltd, operator of Resorts World Sentosa casino complex in Singapore, and Macau operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.

Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd and Wynn Resorts Ltd – two casino groups also with Macau operations – have respectively announced a Yokohama focus in their campaign to win a Japan casino licence.

U.S.-based Las Vegas Sands Corp – that has Macau casinos under its Sands China Ltd unit and also runs the Marina Bay Sands resort under Singapore’s casino duopoly – has announced in May that the company would “discontinue its pursuit of integrated resort (IR) development in Japan”. The company had said last year that it would focus on Tokyo and Yokohama in its effort to be allowed to build a casino resort in Japan.