Public opinion in Osaka, Japan is on the rise in support of an integrated casino resort in the prefecture according to an exit poll conducted over the weekend by the local news outlet, Mainichi Shimbun. The survey was taken by Japan’s oldest newspaper over the weekend as the Osaka Mayoral Election was held as part of the 20th Unified Local Elections in the country.
Plans call for Japan’s first casino to be built as part of a large integrated resort (IR) on Yumeshima island – a man-made land mass that is part of Konohana-ku, one of the 24 wards of Osaka, Japan.
According to the trusted outlet, the survey queried 6,190 voters as they left 145 polling places. A majority, 53% said they supported the IR development while 45% said they were opposed to it.
Osakans Want the Integrated Resort Casino
Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura was not shy about his support for the development and the issue was seen by many as a key element of his potential re-election which he handily won with more support for a second term than he garnered when he won the governorship the first time. He assumed office in April 2019.
According to a report on Inside Asia Gaming’s website, only a third of those who voted to re-elect the governor were opposed to the development.
Hirofumi Yoshimura was endorsed by Osaka Ishin no Kai (Japan Reformation Association). He is the Deputy Leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai. Osaka (city) is the capital and most populated city in the Osaka Prefecture, and the third most populous city in Japan with a population of 2.7 million.
Also endorsed by Osaka Ishin no Kai was political upstart Hideyuki Yosokawa who was elected mayor of the city. His victory was more robust than that of the governor however with a record 2.44 million votes – the most ever cast for a mayoral candidate in Osaka. His margin of victory was about two-million votes over his closest competitor.
The party also won 55 seats on the city council and retained its majority.
Governor Yoshimura was supported by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well. He had stated earlier that he may resign as a representative if a majority was not maintained.
Hard Work Ahead for Next Four Years
Speaking to constituents after the election Yoshimura said, “I believe that we have received a certain amount of public support to promote the IR attraction. I want to work hard for the next four years with the strong desire to make Osaka grow.”
The prefecture and city tendered an application to the central government in early 2022. Partnering in the endeavor are MGM Resorts and the Japanese multinational ORIX Corporation, a publicly owned Tokyo-based international financial services company established in 1964. ORIX is listed on the Tokyo and New York Stock Exchanges.
When Japanese lawmakers finally passed legislation that was signed by the late Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, it was hoped by many that at least one IR would be approved and operating before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics opened. However, deep-seated religious and secular political opposition to gambling remained and the fight was taken to a local level where anti-casino voices, mixed with complicated cultural and political machinations won out and drove most casino operators away from the fight.
Current projections, reportedly affirmed by the Governor, project an IR opening in 2029. Investment costs have been estimated to be as high as $10 billion to complete the project.
Out of a large field of deep pockets and top-tier global casino operators that initially vied for approval, MGM’s Osaka bid is seen by many as the last hope to build not only a world-class casino resort in Japan but the country’s only casino.
Various numbers have been tossed about since long before the Diet and Cabinet codified gambling liberalization in Japan. The latest projections indicate that the MGM/Orix consortium’s development could attract as many as 20 million visits each year and generate revenue approaching US$4 billion (JPY 520 billion).
Source: Exit poll shows majority support for Osaka IR as governor wins re-election, Inside Asian Gaming, April 11