Unified Local Elections in April key hurdle for IR bids

Every local government IR bid in the nation remains dependent upon conservative, or the right wing forces remaining in power in all major executive and legislative bodies. There is not a single left-of-center political party or major institution that isn’t hostile to casino legalization and ready to pull the plug on the local IR plans. This year’s Unified Local Elections in April will thus be a critical point on the political calendar.

The elections will include highly IR bid-relevant gubernatorial elections in Hokkaido and Kanagawa prefectures. Also, the Aichi gubernatorial election is in February.

Key prefectural assembly elections (these assemblies must approve an IR bid under the terms of the IR Implementation Act) will be held in Hokkaido, Osaka, Kanagawa, Chiba, Aichi, Wakayama, and Nagasaki.

Possibly impactful city council elections are scheduled for Osaka, Nagoya, Chiba, and Kawasaki.

Osaka is probably the safest case for the IR industry because the two main competitors for power are the Osaka Restoration Association and the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. There doesn’t seem to be a serious prospect that an anti-casino party can win, and the local business community leaders are also quite committed to the Yumeshima IR project.

Hokkaido appears to be the most likely candidate to be forced to drop out of the IR race as a result of the elections, with the opposition parties relatively strong in the prefecture and with the ruling conservatives losing the advantage of incumbency now that Governor Harumi Takahashi is stepping down. It will likely be a close contest either way.

Kanagawa Representative Yoichiro Aoyagi of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan reiterated his own party’s opposition to casinos in an interview published by the Sankei Shinbun on Thursday: “We don’t need a casino in Yokohama. Tourism is already increasing and there’s no cogent argument for them in terms of economic growth. A casino would unmistakably have a negative impact of public security. I think the Unified Elections will be a good opportunity to ask the public its opinion. We can have sufficient tourism and economic growth policies that don’t rely on casinos. I hear that Kawasaki city is also considering a bid, and we will oppose that as well.”