The Roads to IR Approval in Wakayama and Nagasaki Take Different Directions


There hasn’t been much talk out of Osaka regarding its integrated resort (IR) plans, but Wakayama and Nagasaki are staying busy. IR candidates have to present their final plans to the Japanese government by April and both Wakayama and Nagasaki are now on completely different paths.

Wakayama, Japan
Wakayama, Japan
A view of Wakayama, Japan’s landscape. The city still hopes it can convince locals that an IR is a good idea. (Image: Agoda)

There was a time that Wakayama thought it had a lot of support for its IR plans. That has changed over the past couple of months. The opposition has steadily been increasing and, in November, 8,000 signatures were gathered to force a referendum. Now, over 20,000 signatures have been gathered.

Wakayama Opposition Steadily Grows

For a referendum to be held in Wakayama, city laws stipulate that a petition has to collect the signatures of at least 2% of eligible voters. That threshold was passed last month, with only around 6,200 signatures needed. After collecting more than 20,000, anti-IR groups are emphasizing their opposition to the project.

The signatures will need to be confirmed and have already been turned over to the city election committee. Next, city council members and the mayor have to weigh in. That is expected to take place sometime in early January. That doesn’t leave much time to figure out what happens next ahead of the April deadline.

Many of those opposing the IR feel that they weren’t given an opportunity to have a voice in the matter. Even if the city decides to move forward with its project, the national government could reject the project based on the opposition.

Nagasaki Trying to Overcome Resistance

The Nagasaki prefecture has seen some blowback to its IR plans, but not as much as Wakayama. Local officials have been working to counter that resistance. They are providing regular updates and interacting with the public to maintain a positive attitude.

The prefecture recently announced that it was going to update the design of the project in order to better reflect its goals and ambitions. It just released new renderings, part of a draft proposal for its IR plans.

Expected to be built in Sasebo City, the IR will cover 79 acres. The built-out area will be almost 136 acres.

The budget for the project hasn’t changed, despite the expanded footprint. It remains ¥350 billion (US$3.08 billion). The investment will be worth it, according to Nagasaki’s IR Planning Department. It says that around ¥320 billion (US$2.82 billion) of overall economic improvement will come to the area. That improvement is based on the overall benefits and new opportunities having an IR will bring.

Directly, the IR is expected to deliver up to ¥30 billion (US$264 million) a year in revenue for the prefecture. That is calculated from the taxes paid on the property’s performance.

Where the money comes from to build the IR is still a big question mark. Casinos Austria is the prefecture’s casino partner, and calls have been made to demand it to reveal how it will cover construction costs.

However, according to the operator’s local subsidiary, Casinos Austria International Japan, that information won’t be revealed “until the Nagasaki Prefectural Assembly in March 2022.”

That will only give everyone around a month to dissect the information and determine its credibility ahead of the April 28 deadline.

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