The first meeting of experts was held in Wakayama prefecture last week. The committee was established by Wakayama prefecture in May as part of their plan to promote Wakayama Marina City as a candidate location for an IR.
The Nikkei and local Wakayama Shimpo reported that it will seek opinions on the attractions of Wakayama and anti-problem gaming strategies based on the IR Fundamental Policy that the government will announce in the Fall (or later), and incorporate these into the prefecture’s plans.
The committee is comprised of eight members, including university professors and lawyers, Kansai Electric’s Shosuke Mori in a consultant role, and other people related to business, with Motoshige Ito of Tokyo University chairing. Wakayama Governor, Yoshinobu Nisaka, greeted the council saying, “I want to borrow various ideas so that we can play a part in Japan’s growth model.”
The meeting was not open to the public and the prefecture explained the concept of a resort-type IR to the committee.
The government plans to publish a Fundamental Policy for IR in the Fall or later, which will form the basis of selection criteria for operators. The committee of experts will be asked their opinions when the prefecture is deciding on an implementation policy based on this.
After the meeting, Governor Nisaka said, “I would like to gather the opinions from the various perspectives of our members as we discuss this topic.”
Chairman Ito commented, “We discussed various issues like how psychology and food culture experts can contribute, and tourism.”
One of the committee members said that Wakayama prefecture is progressing with an IR bid.
The prefecture is working toward a resort-type IR, based on the IR basic concept it announced in May 2018, which will utilize the natural resources of the area. It will use a combination of tourist attractions such as sailing and fishing on the sea, and hot springs and hiking that can be enjoyed in the mountains.
The challenge now will be communicating the attractions of Wakayama as part of the bid. Osaka is considered to be the most suitable candidate site and there are voices saying that Kansai should not be home to two IR facilities. The prefecture argues, on the other hand, that two will not be a disadvantage but instead the two locations will support each other.
Dispelling concerns about gambling addiction is another challenge. Wakayama city mayor, Masahiro Obana, agrees with an IR bid, but has expressed that the casino aspect should be for the exclusive use of foreign visitors and this is a subtle difference from those prefectures who support the casinos looking to allow domestic Japanese guests. The date of the second meeting for the committee is undecided. We can expect to hear more opinions from the committee members on the prefecture’s policies.
Only days after the first committee meeting, a protest against IRs was held in Kainan city on 10 August, indicating that there are voices of dissent. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, about 70 people participated in the “Kainan Against a Wakayama Casino” citizen’s group event.