Yokohama is set to formally bid for one of three IR licenses to be issued by the Japanese government.
According to local media reports on Monday, mayor Fumiko Hayashi will formally announce in September the city’s intention to develop an integrated resort at Yamashita Wharf.
After a long period of showing no clear movement either way, it appears that the city’s budgetary issues – the result of an aging and declining population – have led Yokohama to view an IR as the most appropriate means to boost the economy and establish a tax source for the city. There are now plans to set up a dedicated division in the municipality and for structural reinforcement.
The JPY260 million general account supplementary budget will be submitted at the third regular city meeting to be held on 2 September. The proposed spot on Yamashita Wharf, in Naka ward, covers 47 hectares and Yokohama is ready to start a public offering and the selection process for an operator once the site is approved by the Diet.
While mayor Hayashi did initially show some interest in an IR bid, she toned her rhetoric right down prior to the mayoral election in the summer of 2017 and has consistently emphasized indecision thereafter. One of the catalysts for the sudden change in direction was likely the national government’s recent movements.
The IR Development Act, established in July 2018, laid out the process from local government application to licensing to opening for business and made it clear that a maximum of three cities would be approved for such development. The first opening is expected to be in the mid-2020s and the IR Basic Policy, which will define the selection criteria, is expected to be set in place this year.
This means that it won’t be long before competition between the bidding cities really heats up. Even Chiba prefecture, which has been researching Makuhari New City (Makuhari-shintoshin) as a prospective IR site, announced its policy to accept submission of information from the private sector this month. It looks like Yokohama felt the pressure to throw its name into the ring before other municipalities passed it by. Osaka, Wakayama and Nagasaki have already been pushing for bids and now that Yokohama is definitely in the race, others may also be forced to pick up the pace.