Hokkaido governor to set up IR experts committee

In a move apparently meant to buy time and give her political cover, Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi indicated within the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly on Wednesday that she would be setting up an experts’ committee later in this month to consider the advisability of an IR bid.

Since there is more than one municipality in Hokkaido which has expressed interest in hosting an IR, the experts’ committee will also look into the question of the optimal location should a bid go forward.

Governor Takahashi stated, “The committee will carry out a concrete examination and listen to a wide range of opinions regarding the regional economy, international tourism, gambling addiction, and the candidate sites which should be given priority.”

There’s no much doubt that this is a step backward rather than forwards. Governor Takahashi had earlier signaled her support for hosting an IR bid, but has now slipped back into a more cautious stance.

The reason for her change of attitude is not difficult to guess. Reporting this week from the Hokkaido Shinbun found that the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly is unlikely to support an IR bid at this juncture. Governor Takahashi is thus touching her foot on the brakes in order to build up political support more slowly and carefully.

Also, both Governor Takahashi and the entire prefectural assembly face elections next April, and most ordinary citizens remain opposed to the legalization of casino gambling.