Photo/IllutrationThe Yokohama city government plans to implement a redevelopment project in Yamashita Wharf, seen in the photo. The project is expected to be completed in the second half of the 2020s. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Yokohama officials are planning to spin the wheel in hopes of landing one of the three "integrated resort" (IR) locations in Japan that will include a casino, according to sources related to the municipal government.

The candidate site will be Yokohama Port’s Yamashita Wharf, which covers 47 hectares of land and is convenient from central Tokyo and Haneda Airport, they said.

However, objection is strong to a casino-based resort among residents and the city assembly. A strong backlash is expected if Mayor Fumiko Hayashi officially announces that the city government will seek to host an IR.

According to the sources, the city government plans to submit an IR-related supplementary budget plan of about 300 million yen ($2.8 million) to a regular session of the city assembly in September.

If the budget plan is approved, the city government will start considering concrete measures toward submitting an integrated resort proposal.

Hayashi had supported inviting an IR to be located in her city. Before the mayoral election in 2017, however, she changed her position, saying that seeking to host an integrated resort was still undecided.

After the law to set up IRs passed the Diet in July 2018, she collected proposals for a resort from private companies while maintaining a “still undecided” stance.

A total of 12 companies submitted proposals. One estimated that 1.3 trillion yen would be invested in the project.

The Yokohama Chamber of Commerce and Industry is supporting the idea of hosting a casino-based resort, saying that it would revitalize the local economy and attract more tourists.

However, many citizens are opposed to the idea due to fears that cases of gambling addiction will increase along with crime.

The Yokohama port transportation association, which consists of companies using Yamashita Wharf, also opposes it.

The central government plans to permit establishment of IRs in up to three locations in Japan. Currently, some local governments are actively campaigning to land one of the three slots.

In February this year, the Osaka prefectural government and the Osaka city government jointly worked out a basic plan to host a casino-based resort, and embarked on an effort to choose a company to operate it.

As Osaka is believed to have the best possibility to become one of the three, seven companies, including foreign-based ones, are vying to be chosen as the IR operator there.

In response to media reports that Yokohama would officially announce that it would also seek to host an integrated resort, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said, “We have assumed that one of the three will be chosen from the Tokyo metropolitan area.”

He added, “While competing (with other areas such as Yokohama), we want to realize an integrated resort that we can boast about to the world.”

The Wakayama prefectural government is also proceeding with plans to invite an IR to locate on an artificial island of Wakayama city.

In May, it established a council of experts, including lawyers and experts on measures against gambling addiction. A major French casino operator also set up an office in the city.

The Aichi prefectural government is also considering locating an integrated resort on the Chubu Airport island. The Nagasaki prefectural government is aiming to invite an IR to an area centering on the Huis Ten Bosch theme park.

In Hokkaido, three municipalities are hoping to become a candidate site for a casino-based resort. Of these, Tomakomai is believed to attract the largest number of customers.

The central government is aiming to realize opening of IRs in up to three locations in the first half of the 2020s.

(This article was written by Hiroyuki Takei, Junya Sakamoto and Kenji Komine.)