By Tsutsui Ryuhei and Hakotani Shinji
While local residents have views for and against inviting integrated resorts (IR) which include casinos, the “local consensus building” that the Japanese government requires of local governments have attracted attention. Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City revised their plan based on public hearings, but the opinions of the participants who opposed an IR were hardly reflected. The prefecture and city responded to changes in some requirements at the request of business operators. Local governments are pressed to respond to the concerns of residents.
Local governments who wish to invite an IR need to submit a development plan with project details to the Japanese government by April 28. In addition to obtaining local council approval, the IR Development Law requires local governments to hold public hearings, as “a necessary measure to reflect the residents’ views.” “Sufficient consensus building in the local area” is one criterion in the Japanese government’s evaluation process.
Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City held four public hearings in January 2022. Of the 40 people who expressed their views, 35, or 90% of attendees, opposed an IR. The reasons were concerns about an increase in gambling addiction (19 people), concerns that the city will bear 79 billion yen for soil liquefaction and other measures (17 people), lack of explanation to local residents (17 people), and doubts about the economic effects of an IR (14 people).
In February 2022, the prefecture and city revised and finalized their development plan, which incorporated only one opposing viewpoint from the hearings. In response to comments such as “we would like to have rules regarding alcohol consumption in casino operations,” the phrase “[alcohol consumption] will be mentioned in the employee manual and [operators] will strive to provide alcohol in an appropriate manner” was added.
Wakayama Prefecture, which also aims to invite an IR, held a public hearing on March 12 and 13. Of the 27 people who expressed their views, 19 opposed an IR. Nagasaki Prefecture will hold a public hearing at the end of March 2022. Local governments will be tested on their ability to respond thoughtfully to residents’ views with very little time. (Abridged)