Growing protest: dispute over casino project in Yokohama

Growing protest: dispute over casino project in Yokohama

The development of the first casino resorts in Japan is not a good star. Resistance to the billion-dollar project is now growing in the city of Yokohama.

The casino is to be built at the port of Yokohama. (Image: City of Yokohama)

In the dispute, critics of the mega project on the one hand and Yokohama's mayor Fumiko Hayashi on the other. The dispute is currently igniting the implementation of a possible referendum. With this, the citizens of the city should be involved in the decision.

Controversial issue of citizen participation

Mayor Hayashi originally promised to conduct a poll if the opponents received enough votes from the population. But after they had collected more than 205,000 signatures since November and thus far more than the minimum number of required signatures, Hayashi refrained from their opinion expressed in October.

The mayor, who has been in office since 2009, now stated:

A referendum means putting the previous discussions on hold. Due to the discussions in the city council, it is important to continue the legal process at all times.

If it doesn't come to that, the city will lose valuable time not benefiting from the advantages of a casino. Yokohama could not afford this in view of the corona-related tense financial situation.

In addition, argued Hayashi, holding a referendum is expensive. The result is ultimately not legally binding. In this way, the city administration can continue its casino plans even in the event of a public rejection.

For many observers, the current development is just one more step in a series of delays that accompany the approval process for casinos in Japan. After the original plan was to end the application deadline on December 31, 2020, it was postponed to October 1, 2021 a month ago. For this reason, the opening of the first casinos is likely to be delayed further. While the government had recently targeted the year 2025 as a possible date, the first casinos should now be completed at the end of this decade at the earliest.

The mayoress is not alone in her opinion, because she knows many of the city council members are behind her. Its finance committee decided last Thursday to vote against a possible referendum.

The casino opponents are now hoping for a final decision by the 86-member city council. This should take place promptly, according to the city administration.