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Wakayama assembly rejects ‘sloppy’ plan for casino resort

  • April 20, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 5:58 p.m.
  • English Press

WAKAYAMA–The Wakayama prefectural assembly on April 20 rejected plans to build a casino-centered integrated resort (IR) in the capital of the prefecture in the Kinki region.


Twenty-two assembly members voted against the project, exceeding the 18 who voted “yes” to effectively suspend the IR plan.


Under the IR law, a casino project must be approved by a local assembly.


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is spearheading the drive to set up casino-centered resorts to prop up local economies.


But even assembly members of the party opposed the Wakayama project because “the fund-raising plan is sloppy.”


The previous day, the assembly’s special committee on the project voted against submitting the prefecture’s IR plan to the central government.


Under the plan, the Wakayama prefectural government would open the IR in Wakayama city around autumn 2027.


In fiscal 2030, the resort would attract 6.5 million visitors and create an economic ripple effect worth 350 billion yen ($2.7 billion) for the prefecture, according to the plan.


However, the prefecture seemed to run into problems in seeking an initial investment of 470 billion yen–70 percent through loans and 30 percent from investors.


The Credit Suisse Group was to lead a syndicate of banks and provide the loans.


As for the investors, Canada’s Clairvest Group would provide 55 percent of the funds and become the main operator of the IR while U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment would cover 5 percent.


The prefecture said around 10 other investors would put up the remainder, but it named only Nishimatsu Construction Co.


At the April 19 special committee session, members raised questions about the IR operator’s ability to gain funds, the investment situation, countermeasures against gambling addiction, and other issues based on the district development plan compiled by the prefectural government and the project operator.


A representative of Clairvest Neem Ventures (CNV) joined the committee session online and explained the latest fund-raising situation.


However, some committee members expressed concerns that CNV had yet to obtain a written promise from the Credit Suisse Group on providing loans for the project. They also wanted the specific name of the Japanese bank that was supposedly among the loan lenders.


One committee member said the low percentage of Japanese companies among the project’s participants was a negative factor.


“The fund-raising plan is vague and uncertain, so the central government won’t accept the project,” Kazumi Yoshii, a local assembly member of the LDP, said at the committee session. He voted “no.”


Another LDP member said, “I agree with the idea of hosting the IR project, but the funding is not transparent, so I cannot vote ‘yes.’


“The project has so far been dominated by the operator, so I feel there is sloppiness in the plan.”

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