Wakayama Locals Speak Out Over Proposed Integrated Resort Plan

Posted on: November 15, 2021, 12:08h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2021, 12:43h.

A proposed integrated resort plan for Wakayama is being opposed by some residents of the prefecture, who are currently organizing a petition drive against the project.

Marina City in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan, seen here, could be home to an integrated resort unless local resistance grows. (Image: Visit Wakayama)

Some residents believe that the plan should be open for discussion. They say they were not allowed to comment on the proposal, and now they want to have a say, ABC-TV reports.

More than 6,200 signatures are required to request a referendum from the mayor. The citizen-led groups have collected over 3,000 signatures so far, and expect to collect another 20,000 by Dec. 5.

Wakayama Struggles with IR Plans

Yokohama also hosted a referendum campaign organized by those who opposed an IR. In August, the city elected an IR-opposing candidate to the office of mayor. Resident groups there collected 193,000 signatures in support of that referendum.

Wakayama found unexpected resistance from the local community as it prepared to discuss its IR plans. Community-led efforts could lead to the prefecture withdrawing from the IR race.

The Yokohama municipal council debated a draft ordinance proposal. The referendum was not held because the majority had rejected the ordinance. Takeharu Yamanaka, a stout opponent of IRs coming to Japan, was elected to the August mayoral elections. The city’s attempt to be IR-compliant was effectively ended by this election.

Wakayama Will Continue Pushing IR Plans Forward

The Wakayama prefecture selected Clairvest Neem Ventures to operate and build an IR in the prefecture. Caesars Entertainment was selected to be the new operator of the casino after they signed a basic contract.

The prefecture’s preferred candidate is currently working with the local government to create an area development plan to submit to the Japanese Diet before the April 28 deadline. It’s too early to determine if the recent pushback will impact the prefecture’s plans. However, the timing of the resistance – less than six months before the deadline – isn’t good for the project.

Wakayama will hold a series of discussions in preparation for the submission to provide updates to the community about what’s happening. Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 4, 14 locations will host public briefings. Marina City, where the IR would most likely be built, will host one briefing.

The program will include seven additional locations. The meetings are designed to give a general overview of the development of the plan. The IR proposal consists of a Q&A session by the prefecture to address citizens’ concerns.

Time’s Running Out in Japan

Osaka, Nagasaki, Wakayama, and Yokohama were once seen as the most likely candidates to host IRs when the picture began to come into focus.

First, Yokohama dropped out, leaving only three potential locations in the running for what are expected to be three initial licenses. However, the Japanese Diet, should it believe that Wakayama locals aren’t supportive of the concept, could leave the prefecture off the selection list.

Should that happen, Osaka and Nagasaki would be the only two targets remaining in what had initially been a field of more than eight. Several local governments that showed interest two years ago dropped out quickly, with others falling off as the process dragged on. Because the Diet can initially choose up to three locations, it also could choose only one, or in theory, none.