Separate civil groups in Osaka and Nagasaki have made recent moves challenging aspects of the casino resort policy respectively in those conurbations. But according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, there is no guarantee that the challenges will be able to move forward, as they would require a degree of cooperation from the authorities in the two places.
On April 26, Osaka and Nagasaki prefectures respectively announced they had submitted to the national government their IR District Development Plans, in time for an April 28 deadline. They were the only local authorities to make bids.
On Monday, a civil group aiming for a referendum in Osaka prefecture on the metropolis’ procedures in seeking an integrated resort (IR), said it had collected 208,552 signatures and submitted them to the prefecture’s Election Administration Commission.
That was well above the circa 146,500 signatures – or 2 percent of the local electorate – required to trigger a requirement for Osaka’s governor to move to the next step along the path to a referendum. According to information collated by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, the verification of the signatures gathered could take a month.
On Monday, the governor of Osaka prefecture, Hirofumi Yoshimura, was reported as saying he did not think such a referendum was necessary. A unit of MGM Resorts International and Japan’s Orix Corp are Osaka’s private-sector partners for the local tilt for an IR. The resort complex would – according to previous statements – require an initial investment of JPY1.08 trillion (US$8.14 billion, at current exchange rates), with a target date of 2029 for opening it.
A prefecture-level referendum would need the support of the prefectural assembly. According to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, the Osaka Restoration Association – a local political grouping that supports the IR policy – has a majority in that assembly, with currently 48 of the 84 seats.
The other local-government body in the metropolis – Osaka city council – has already rejected an earlier attempt by anti-casino groupings to have a referendum on the IR topic.
On June 2, in Nagasaki – another casino resort contender – a civil group held a media briefing, announcing some legal moves. It said it had “submitted a resident audit request to the prefecture”.
The request is for the prefectural audit committee to look into whether a commission fee payment for the current year – said to amount to JPY110 million – for consultants to support the prefecture in the IR process was legally appropriate.
The power to ask for such an audit is within the provisions of Japan’s Local Autonomy Act, according to GGRAsia’s correspondent.
Letters on Nagasaki funding
The June 2 media briefing from the anti-casino group added it was “highly sceptical about the fundraising plan” for the casino resort proposal from Nagasaki’s private-sector partner, Casinos Austria International Japan Inc, “meeting the requirement set by the central government”. It stated that “if the plan does not meet” such requirements, “there is no chance” for Nagasaki’s scheme “to be selected”.
The civil group added: “The group submitted a request for disclosure to the prefecture to get the supporting documents of the fundraising plan delivered by Casinos Austria International Japan.”
According to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, the membership of any local audit committee, would be appointed by the local governor – in this case, Kengo Oishi – with the consent of the prefectural assembly.
In April, representatives of the Nagasaki prefectural government said in the prefectural assembly that the prefecture had decided “not to disclose any name of capital contributors” in the IR project, according to information gathered by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent.
The local government added at that time that the prefecture “got more than 10 commitment letters,” with a total amount committed of “more than JPY500 billion, which exceeds JPY438.3 billion required.”
There is no provision in the IR legislation as to how long project assessment by the central government should take. The decision-making process involves the Japan Tourism Agency of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
It has been reported in Japan that determinations on the submitted proposals could be made public by the autumn of this year.
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