Nagasaki Heads Into the Last Lap of the Casino Resort Race Under a Caution Flag

Posted on: January 3, 2022, 06:27h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2022, 09:31h.

Nagasaki’s future as a host of an integrated resort (IR) in Japan has always been strong. However, there are a couple of issues that mean the outcome is anything but a guarantee.

Hodo Nakamura
The governor of Nagasaki, Hodo Nakamura, as he celebrates his re-election in 2018. If he’s not careful, an IR opponent could surface in next month’s elections, threatening the future of the project. (Image: The Japan Times)

In 2018, Nagasaki re-elected Hodo Nakamura to be its governor. He was – and still is – a strong supporter of an IR in the prefecture. As Nagasaki gets ready to hold its next gubernatorial elections in February, attention is being given to whether he will remain to see the project through to the end.

Nakamura easily won the last election. At the time, there was a great deal of support for an IR. However, the sentiment has softened somewhat since then. Although most locals are still in favor of the project, growing resistance could cause issues.

Should an anti-IR gubernatorial candidate surface and win, it’s conceivable that Nagasaki could suffer the same fate as Yokohama. The former, pro-IR mayor of the city, Fumiko Hayashi, lost to Takahiro Yamanaka, who ran on an anti-IR platform. Once sworn into office, one of his first moves was to drop the ax on the IR plans.

Nagasaki Residents Want Answers

Yokohama never had the same level of support for its IR candidacy that is found in Nagasaki. However, friction is on the rise in the prefecture that could weaken the pro-IR stance. When Casinos Austria was chosen as the prefecture’s casino partner, allegations that the outcome was rigged surfaced. That helped IR opponents fuel their efforts to stop the project.

Nagasaki is now receiving public input and responses to its IR draft, which it released last month. All input must be submitted by January 17, after which the prefecture will provide a follow-up to the draft. Some locals are on edge, though, as many of the details surrounding the project haven’t been released. Based on recent comments, they won’t be released anytime soon, either.

Residents want to know how Casinos Austria plans on funding the ¥320 billion (US$2.82 billion). That information hasn’t been divulged and won’t be made public before the end of January.

When Inside Asian Gaming spoke to someone on the inside about the financial concerns, the individual was evasive. In what could be described as the epitome of the perfect political response, the unidentified person said, “We are in the stage of increasing the degree of certainty.”

Many IR Partners Still Unclear

Locals also want to know who is going to be involved in the IR. Unfortunately, the president of Casinos Austria’s Japanese arm, Akio Hayashi, isn’t saying, and only offers, “We cannot reveal the names of the companies until the Nagasaki Prefectural Assembly in March 2022 [due to sensitive information of participating companies].”

It’s known that there are several companies that will be included in Nagasaki’s IR. However, the extent of their involvement and any other entities in the group isn’t clear. Osaka, on the other hand, has been very forthcoming with information regarding the entities involved.

The deadline for the presentation of IR plans to the Japanese Diet is April 28. Nagasaki is holding its final prefecture meeting on the subject only a little more than a month before that. That doesn’t give much time for any feedback.

The prefecture’s IR Planning Department needs to be careful. It’s potentially putting itself in a position of greater opposition, which could give the national government enough cause to eliminate it as a candidate.