Wakayama Mayor Masahiro Obana has expressed his opposition to holding a referendum on the prefecture’s planned IR development, citing unnecessary cost and a lack of relevance to the process.
Information containing the opinions of Mayor Obana was distributed at a City Council steering committee meeting on Monday after a group called the “Wakayama Resident’s Group for Questioning the IR Bid” submitted a petition containing 20,039 signatures earlier this month and demanded a referendum.
The number of signatures accounted for around 6.5% of the city’s voting population and far exceeded the 2%, or 6,200 signatures required to take such action.
Under Wakayama law, the mayor is required to call a city council meeting within 20 days of accepting such a petition at which he must make a proposal about the referendum to the council, including his own opinion. The referendum will only go ahead if passed by the council.
According to local media reports, Mayor Obana stated his opinion that a referendum is expensive to implement, is not legally binding and that it is therefore difficult to establish the significance of conducting such a process.
Wakayama is one of three locations planning to submit a bid for IR development to the central government by the 28 April 2022 deadline after it selected a consortium headed by Clairvest Neem Ventures as its preferred operator partner in June 2021. A basic agreement between the operator and prefecture was signed in August. It has since been announced that US casino giant Caesars Entertainment announced will participate as casino operator should the central government approve Wakayama’s IR bid, however Caesars has emphasized they have “no capital commitment” to the project.
Clairvest is currently working with the prefecture to put together a regional development plan, which must be submitted to the central government by April.
However, a series of resident briefings that had been planned for last November were postponed after it was pointed out that specific details around the provision of capital and funding had not been disclosed.
One year ago, in January 2021, an anti-IR group submitted a petition for a referendum regarding an IR bid in the city of Yokohama with 190,000 signatures – triple the required number. The proposal was subsequently dismissed by the city council, however Yokohama’s IR plans were quashed in August after anti-IR campaigner Takeharu Yamanaka won the mayoral election.