Wakayama IR plan struggles on three fronts

While the notion of establishing an IR in Wakayama City has benefitted from strong and early support of Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka and Mayor Masahiro Obana, they are now beleaguered by tough challenges on three separate fronts.

Last Friday, Mayor Obana traveled to Tokyo to make several IR-related requests to the central government, all of which were aimed at allowing the local government to proceed with its own vision for an IR. The first front with which the Wakayama bid must contend is the national government’s policy, which may set down terms making the Marina City IR plan impossible to realize.

Indeed, Mayor Obana indicated last month that “we would be forced to give up our plans to host an IR” unless the central government adopted a sufficiently flexible approach.

The second front is with international IR operators. The Wakayama government has been unique so far in Japan by calling for its casino element to be limited to foreign entry. This proposal has been met with a very cold response. The overwhelming majority of guests at prospective Japanese casinos are projected to be Japanese nationals, and therefore most IR operators seem poised to dismiss the idea of making any Wakayama bid if the local government sticks to its current line.

Meanwhile, Governor Nisaka’s entire point in proposing a foreigner-only casino is an attempt to ease public fears about gambling addiction and other social problems, and thus to make the project politically palatable based mainly upon its potential positive economic effect.

However, on a third front, local anti-casino groups are mobilizing nonetheless. Last Wednesday, for example, a citizens’ group hosted a lecture by local lawyer Tetsunari Yoshida that was attended by about eighty people. This is only one of a series of local anti-casino events supported by the Wakayama Bar Association, among others.