Wakayama Mayor Unimpressed with Opposition’s Stance on IR

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The mayor of Wakayama, Japan could be about to open a legal battle that might jeopardize the city’s chances of hosting an integrated resort (IR). Opposition to the idea has been building, and a signature-gathering exercise resulted in over 20,000 names appearing on the list. That should lead to a referendum on the subject. However, Mayor Masahiro Obana doesn’t see it that way.

Wakayama’s IR Future Remains Unclear

Obana has rescinded his support for a referendum about the prefecture’s planned IR developments. He cited a lackluster process and unnecessary costs.

On Monday, information containing Mayor Obana’s opinions was distributed at a City Council meeting. This was after a group called “Wakayama Residents’ Group for Questioning IR Bid” had submitted a petition containing the signatures earlier in the month and demanded a referendum.

The city’s total voting population was 6.5%. This is far more than the 2% required (6,200 signatures) to pass such an action.

Wakayama law requires that the mayor call a meeting of the city council within 20 days after accepting a petition. At this meeting, he must present a proposal to the council about the referendum, along with his opinion. If the council passes the referendum, it will be allowed to proceed.

Local media reports claim that Mayor Obana said that a referendum would be costly to implement and not legally binding. It is therefore difficult to determine the significance of such a process.

Wakayama Still On the Shortlist, For Now

Wakayama is one of the three locations that will submit a bid to the central government for IR development by the April 28 deadline. The consortium led by Clairvest Neem Ventures was chosen by the central government in June 2021 to be its preferred operator partner.

In August, a basic agreement was made between the operator and the prefecture. Caesars Entertainment has announced it will be participating as a casino operator if Wakayama’s IR bid is approved by the central government. The casino operator has, however, stressed that they have no capital commitment to the project.

Clairvest is now working with the prefecture on the creation of the regional development program.

A series of resident briefings, originally scheduled for November of last year, was canceled after it became apparent that details regarding capital and funding were not disclosed. New meetings are supposed to be held in February and March.

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. That 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.

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