Wakayama’s city council has voted against holding a referendum for local residents regarding its pending IR bid.
The issue had been raised after a local citizens’ group gathered 20,000 signatures calling for a referendum on whether or not Wakayama should continue with its plans to develop an IR at Wakayama Marina City.
At an extraordinary city council meeting on 25 January it was determined that the majority of the council was opposed to a referendum, and the amendment was then officially rejected at a regular council meeting on 27 January.
Mayor Masahiro Obana cited high costs as the reason for rejecting the referendum request, stating, “There is not much point in holding [a referendum],” when addressing the council. According to a city official, the cost for holding a referendum would be JPY 85 million (US$735,000) which is around the same as holding an election.
A consortium led by Clairvest Neem Ventures Co Ltd was last year selected as the city’s preferred operator partner and a basic agreement was signed with the prefecture in August. It was announced in September that Caesars Entertainment would participate as casino operator, albeit without any direct investment of its own, and Clairvest is currently working with Wakayama prefecture to put together the regional development plan, which must be submitted to the central government by 28 April 2022.
There remain many questions still to be answered around Wakayama’s IR plans, however. Members of the council asked about financing and consortium details during an extraordinary prefectural assembly of the IR special committee in November, but the prefecture and Clairvest insisted they could not give specific details at that time. The committee then came to the conclusion that there had been insufficient information that could be provided to residents and postponed a series of briefing sessions.
The prefecture accepted this stance of the committee and postponed the public briefings and public comments originally scheduled for the period from November last year to February this year.