Melco Resorts & Entertainment has announced it will discontinue its pursuit of an integrated resort license in Yokohama and close its local office, but says it remains committed to exploring other Japan development opportunities in the future.
The decision to withdraw comes after anti-IR campaigner Takeharu Yamanaka won the citys mayoral election on 22 August, ending the three-term tenure of Fumiko Hayashi.
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 Chairman and CEO, Lawrence Ho.
Our proposal was focused on the Asian premium segment, our devotion to quality and craftsmanship, and our dedication to creating a world-class entertainment destination. We designed this resort in a way that reflected Melcos focus on quality, demonstrating a respectful approach to partnership, developing the most advanced protection measures in the world, and with stringent ethical business conduct during the process.
Unfortunately, the citizens of Yokohama have decided otherwise, and the mayoral election results give a clear verdict. The new mayor, having campaigned on an anti-IR platform, has now officially closed the door on the process we engaged in with our partners.
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.
Melco has been working on the ground in Japan for over a decade. We firmly believe in the long-term potential of the country and remain committed to developing the world’s best integrated resort in Japan. We will be closing our Yokohama office while maintaining a representative office in Tokyo.
Following the companys departure from Yokohama, Melco has taken the opportunity to release a fly-through visualization video of its IR concept, which was created by world-renowned architectural firm Zaha Hadid Architects. Zaha Hadid also designed the iconic Morpheus Hotel at City of Dreams Macau.
While Melco plans to continue looking for development opportunities in Japan, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify where such opportunities might arise with two of the three locations to have put their hand up for an IR, Nagasaki and Wakayama, having already chosen their preferred partner. The other, Osaka, is almost certain to name MGM as its partner in the coming weeks.
Yokohama could become an option in the future once Yamanakas time in office ends, depending on who replaces him, although the next mayoral election in Japan is not due until 2025. A more likely scenario would be Tokyo who many industry observers believe had been waiting until after the Olympic and Paralympic Games are complete to make a decision on whether to bid for an IR. Timing could be an issue for this first round of IR developments however, given that city and prefectural candidates have only until 28 April 2022 to choose an operator and submit their application to the national government.
Melco first declared its intention to focus its Japan efforts on Yokohama in September 2019, revealing a Yokohama First policy just weeks after Mayor Hayashi had confirmed the citys intention to develop an IR.
Since then the company has launched a series of initiatives in and around the Yokohama community, including the organization of a Smart Summer event for Motomachi district supporting local tourism, co-sponsoring the Motomachi Craftsmanship Street Food Fair and launching a joint project with professional football club Yokohama F. Marinos to reinvigorate five local shopping arcades in Yokohama, Yokosuka and Yamato cities affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Melco has also sponsored Yokohama F Marinos since July 2019, and also formed a partnership with Naomi Osaka, the first Japanese tennis player ever to win a Grand Slam title.
In what is perhaps a nod to their continuing efforts in Japan, Melco has created a microsite showcasing their social contributions to the Yokohama community.