Some Wakayama residents would be more than pleased if the city’s IR plans took the same path as those in Yokohama. Canceling the project isn’t as easy, but the opposition is gaining traction. On Friday, a group of Wakayama residents called the “Wakayama Residents’ Group for Questioning The IR Bid” submitted a petition containing 20,039 signatures to Mayor Masahiro Obana asking for a referendum on the planned IR bid. The petition was accepted by the city.
Wakayama Anti-Casino Group Gains Support
The city’s total voting population is 6.5%. This means the 20,000-plus signatures far exceed the required 6,200 to force the referendum. Obana must accept the petition and call a meeting of the city council by January 26. The referendum will be presented if approved by the council.
In June 2021, Wakayama selected Clairvest Neem Ventures as its preferred operator partner. A basic agreement was also signed between the operator’s prefecture and operator in August. Caesars Entertainment, the US casino giant, was announced as the casino operator in Wakayama’s IR bid.
Clairvest currently works with the prefecture in the preparation of a regional development program, which must be submitted by April 28 to the central government.
A series of resident briefings, originally scheduled to begin in November of last year, were canceled after it became apparent that details regarding capital and funding had not yet been disclosed.
Japan’s Waning IR Interest
A petition was submitted by an anti-IR group in January 2021 for a referendum on an IR bid in Yokohama. It had 190,000 signatures, triple the required amount. However, the proposal was rejected by the city council. In August, however, Yokohama’s IR plans were quashed after Takeharu Yamanaka, an anti-IR campaigner, won the mayoral election.
Wakayama doesn’t have a lot of time to figure out what comes next. It has to submit its project to the Japanese Diet within a little more than three months – an extension isn’t likely to be granted if requested. With the prefecture not preparing to discuss the IR referendum until January 26, the window for acceptance will close even more.
Even if Wakayama moves forward and presents its project, Japan’s national IR team could decide that the level of opposition is significant enough to discount the prefecture as a potential host.