Bets on hold for planned Yokohama casino
NHK -- Nov 17
The Japanese government’s plan to introduce casinos to the country by the mid-2020s has been controversial from the start.

So-called integrated resorts have the potential to become real money spinners for local economies. But they are also drawing fierce opposition on social and cultural grounds. The coronavirus pandemic is only complicating the issue – not least in Yokohama.

A citizens group submitted a petition last week calling for a referendum on the plan to build an integrated resort in Japan’s second-largest city. The 200,000 signatures were three times over the threshold for a draft ordinance that would put the issue to a public vote.

"Should the cultural city of Yokohama be changed into a casino city?” asks Keio University Professor Emeritus Kobayashi Setsu, who serves as a representative of the group. “One in 15 citizens want a referendum to decide whether to support or reject the plan. We demand the city assembly not disregard our wish."

A law that gave the green light to integrated resorts – which would feature hotels, commercial facilities and international conference halls in addition to casinos – was passed in 2016. They have since become a pillar of the central government’s growth strategy for their potential to enhance tourism and revitalize regional economies.

Yokohama is among several municipalities hoping for an integrated resort. Having one, city officials estimate, would generate between 7 billion and 10 billion dollars annually for the local economy. They also believe it would become a vital source of tax revenue as Japan's population continues to shrink.

But some locals say it would cause social problems. Operators of portside businesses near the planned site are dead set against the idea. At a meeting last week, they unveiled an alternative proposal for a large-scale international exhibition hall and concert venue.

News source: NHK
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