elco Resorts & Entertainment announced Monday that it has pulled back from plans to develop an integrated resort in Yokohama, Japan, as the newly elected mayor rejected the proposed project. As a result, the operator is considering relocating its project to a different site in the country.
“For the past several years, we have worked with our partners to devise a superlative, world-class IR proposal that reflects the unique characteristics and culture of Yokohama and which would put the city on the global stage of tourism,” said Melco’s chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho, reports Macao News.
The company runs a number of resorts in Macao, including Morpheus, City of Dreams, Altira and Studio City. Considerable amounts of both time and money were spent on the Yokohama project, which Melco saw as the ideal location for a potential Japan development.
Melco’s proposal focused on the Asian premium segment and aimed at reflecting the company’s “focus on quality”, as well as the company’s “respectful approach to partnership”.
Despite this, Yokohama citizens ultimately opted against the development by voting Takeharu Yamanaka, the new Mayor, who had announced he would withdraw the city from Japan’s casino race if elected.
“The new mayor, having campaigned on an anti-IR platform, has now closed the door on the process we engaged in with our partners,” lamented Ho. “While we are disappointed, we are grateful for the friendships that we have formed throughout the process and express our sincere gratitude to the people and government of Yokohama, as well as our business and community partners, for their tremendous support.”
As the Japanese government prepares to launch its initial phase of casino gaming liberalization, three licenses for integrated resorts were announced. However, securing proposals has so far resulted harder than expected.
On top of some key foreign players withdrawing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mayor Takeharu Yamanaka’s decision to step Yokohama down from the casino race delivers a big hit to the government’s plans, as it is Japan’s second-largest city in the country by population.
Osaka, the third most populous city, is now the natural candidate for one of the licenses, while Wakayama and Nagasaki are other locations that could host the integrated resort. Melco Resorts & Entertainment seems to still be interested in the race, despite the Yokohama decision.
“Melco has been working on the ground in Japan for over a decade. We firmly believe in the country’s long-term potential and remain committed to exploring opportunities to develop the world’s best integrated resort in Japan,” stated Ho. “We will be closing our Yokohama office while maintaining a representative office in Tokyo.”