Hachiro Okonogi, an anti-IR candidate with majority LDP backing remains being tipped as the most likely winner of this Sunday’s mayoral race in Yokohama, though gaming and hospitality expert Daniel Cheng says this does not necessarily mean it’s all over for an IR in the city.
The latest polling has shown that two anti-IR candidates are vying for the top spot. Hachiro Okonogi has been vocal against an IR in the city, but not against IRs in general. Yamanaka Takeharu, an opposition leader with majority CDP backing, on the other hand, is completely against IRs.
Coming further behind in the race is pro-IR candidate and incumbent mayor Hayashi Fumiko.
Cheng however told Asia Gaming Brief that not all is necessarily lost if Okonogi wins the race.
“I have a sense that if Okonogi wins, all may not be lost because after all, he was part of the national bipartisan IR parliamentary committee at the national government level. So he does personally support IR, he’s just saying he won’t support it for Yokohama because there has been too much negative opinion against it from the people of Yokohama.”
“If he wins there could still be a second wind for IRs in Yokohama, but it would be in the next phase of cities, which would be around seven years later,” he said.
Though he admits that a lot can happen in the seven years, companies currently interested in vying for a spot in Yokohama’s IR plans, which includes Genting and Melco, may not be interested anymore by then.
Cheng said there also exists a small chance for pro-IR candidate Fumiko Hayashi to win the mayorship.
Given Hayashi has been the strongest pro-IR candidate so far, and with six other candidates all opposing IRs – the votes could split between them just evenly enough to put Hayashi in the lead. Though Cheng reminds us that she will still need to win with over 25 percent of votes. It’s a slim chance, but it’s there.
Cheng said it would be a disappointing outcome, however, as Japan would miss out on one of the best gaming companies in the world (referring to Genting).
“That being said, there are going to be more twists around the corner,” said Cheng. “Even if it’s the end of Yokohama, the bigger process itself might have some surprises in store – with more elections coming on the national level in the next couple of months.
Cheng notes that the majority of companies that have since pulled out of the bid for an IR license in Japan are still retaining staff in the country.
“There are some people that are saying that the Wakayama and Nagasaki bid may not even be up to the measure on a national level, which may leave one more license open for …Tokyo maybe?”
See our latest infographic about the eight candidates currently in the race for the mayoral elections this Sunday.