A private citizens group announced on Thursday 26 May that it had collected more than the number of signatures required to call for a referendum challenging Osaka’s IR bid.
Citizens groups opposing casinos spent two months from 25 March to 25 May gathering signatures for a petition to challenge the bid, which if successful would see an integrated resort developed on Yumeshima Island.
According to the public referendum ordinance, signatures of 2% of the voting population, in this case 146,000, are required to call a referendum, with this petition containing 157,000 signatures.
The group will now submit the signatures to the Election Administration Committee. If the local municipalities find the signatures to be valid, they can demand a referendum from Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura, who would then call a prefectural assembly and submit an ordinance. Any such ordinance is not expected to pass in the Ishin and Komeito party-heavy assembly as both parties are supporters of the IR bid.
A representative of the collective citizens groups said, “There is a disconnect between the opinions of the council and the people and the peoples’ voices are not being heard. If the development plan is approved, the local municipalities and operating company will finally be linked up. This petition will stand in the way of concluding any agreements.”
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 discussed by the city council which did not approve the referendum, although the city’s IR dreams were ultimately dashed when IR opponent Takeharu Yamanaka won the mayoral election in August.
In January of this year, Wakayama voted on a referendum for its IR bid resulting in the ordinance not passing due to lack of support in the city council. Despite not holding a referendum, the Wakayama IR bid was later thrown out in the prefectural assembly due to lack of transparency in the financing plan.
A special purpose company called Osaka IR, led by MGM Resorts International and ORIX, is slated to develop and operate Osaka’s IR. The area development plan stipulates the IR is to open by autumn or winter of 2029.