Wakayama council says no to integrated resort referendum

By Noah Taylor Updated
Wakayama governor speaks out after integrated resort withdrawal

The council of a Japanese prefecture has voted against a referendum that local residents were calling for regarding its integrated resorts bid.

Inside Asian Gaming reports that Wakayama’s city council made the decision after the issue was raised by a local citizens’ group that gathered 20,000 signatures.

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 US$735,000, which is around the same as holding an election.

A consortium led by Clairvest Neem Ventures was 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.

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 2021 to February 2022.

Queensland pokies spend reaches record high

Data from the Queensland government reveals that when poker machines were turned back on in July after the state’s three month lockdown, Queenslanders spent nearly $300 million in a single month.

A surge in poker machine use was noted in the figures, which saw a 31.5 per cent spike on money spent in July 2020 compared to July 2019.

Since then, poker machine earnings have consistently been higher, month on month.

Comparing the same months in 2019 and 2020, August’s figures were up 21.3 per cent, September’s soared 20.1 per cent and December’s rose 20.7 per cent.

In January 2019, nearly $215 million was lost in machines, a 12 per cent increase compared to 2019.

In February, losses rose by 13 per cent at $203 million, while the most recent month of June also saw a $211 million loss, 10 per cent more than the corresponding period in 2019.

In the past 12 months, Queenslanders lost $2.8 billion in the state’s poker machines, the highest loss for a financial year since records began in 2004.

Relationships Australia community educator and reformed gambling addict David McAnalen said he believed the stress of job uncertainty, along with government COVID-19 payments, might have fuelled high rates of gambling.

“It’s a comfort to go and gamble. For people with a poor relationship to gambling, they gamble for the effect. They don’t gamble to win money,” he said.

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