Casino Opponents in Osaka Ready to Force Referendum on Integrated Resort

Posted on: July 14, 2022, 07:37h. 

Last updated on: July 14, 2022, 03:49h.

Osaka’s government is on the shortlist for consideration as a host of an integrated resort (IR) in Japan. However, opponents of the project continue efforts to halt its progress and continue to push for a referendum, which they want to see in the next couple of weeks.

Osaka, Japan
Osaka Shinsekai at Night with Tsutenkaku Tower in the background. Osaka still hopes to host an integrated resort even though efforts to block the initiative continues. (Image: TripSavvy)

Osaka and Nagasaki were the only two prefectures still standing when the deadline for IR proposals came to a close in April. They both submitted their project ideas to the national government before the deadline, even as opponents tried to get them to reconsider.

It’s possible that the government may announce its selections within the next three months. It could choose one, both, or none. But anti-casino pundits won’t go down without a fight to the very end.

Yesterday, according to GGRAsia, the anti-casino lobbyists in Osaka announced that they will turn in a new referendum request on July 21. This follows the group’s successful completion of a signature-gathering exercise in the prefecture.

The group stated that it was able to get 190,000 signatures. This is 53,500 more than the law requires to request a referendum.

Concerns Remain

The Osaka Council already rejected one such request, which doesn’t bode well for the latest initiative. However, as local law requires the government to comply with certain protocols, it will have to at least make an effort.

Once the group presents its request, the government has 20 days to respond. After that, it must prepare a draft for consideration by the prefectural assembly. That body will vote on the measure and decide its fate.

In addition to opposing the idea of a casino in the area, the lobbyists have expressed their concerns over the costs. MGM Resorts International and the others in the consortium will bear the brunt of the $10-billion expense. But Osaka is on the hook for at least $1.37 billion.

Osaka Facing Lawsuit Over IR

Osaka chose Yumeshima Island for its IR location. It is an artificial island that is not living up to its full potential. It spans approximately 960 acres, and most of the island is unused land.

Soil studies have revealed that the area may not be conducive to massive, heavy construction projects. As a result, it will be necessary to rework the area. Osaka has agreed to cover the cost, which is where its billion-dollar investment comes into play.

Although the government has repeatedly stated that tax revenue won’t be used, many people aren’t convinced. As a result, a local law firm wants to sue the government for, as it explains things, violating its own rules.

The suit comes after the Audit Committee of Osaka rejected a request that it review land lease agreements. Opponents of the casino plan claim that the agreement violates Japan’s Local Government Finance Act, which limits excessive public spending. The majority of Osaka’s City Audit Committee voted against the audit.

Local media outlet Asahi Shimbun reported that five former Osaka city council members claim that the city paid JPY79 billion (US$576 million) for soil improvement work at the site. This, they say, was illegal.

Support for an IR in Osaka at the government level is on the rise. The country’s recent elections resulted in casino-backing political parties adding additional seats, reinforcing their strength.