Okinawa, Japan, hasn’t been talked about much as a potential candidate for one of the three initial integrated resorts (IR) to be introduced to the Japanese landscape. The primary targets have been Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama, although 40 municipalities have reportedly been interested in submitting bids—a process that seems, to some casino operators, to be taking forever. If Okinawa residents wanted an IR before, their chances haven’t improved any, as the newly elected governor for the prefecture, Denny Tamaki, is as anti-gambling as was his predecessor.
Tamaki won the election with just 55% of the votes—396,632 out of the 720,210 that were cast. He ran on a platform of anti-anything social, including IRs. The former governor, Takeshi Onaga, who passed away on August 8, was also a staunch opponent to gambling.
Atsushi Sakima, who ran against Tamaki, only received around 316,458, or about 44%, of the votes. He was supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, both of which govern the country at the national level. Sakima followed the ideals of the party and ran on a platform that was very pro-IR.
58-year-old Tamaki is of mixed heritage—his mother is from Okinawa and his father is a former U.S. Marine. He has criticized the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, the same way that Onaga had campaigned against it during his tenure. He said after the election results were announced, “The strong feelings of Takeshi Onaga, risking his life to stop the construction of any more bases, helped bring this victory.”
Tamaki never knew his father. Perhaps this has some basis for the animosity he feels toward U.S. military bases and gambling. The majority of the casino operators who have announced their intent to bid for an IR are based in the United States.
Tamaki comes from a background of radio and media. He is a former assemblyman on Okinawa, as well as a former member of Japan’s Lower House. His platform included a number of economic revitalization projects for the area that include luxury cruises, convention facilities and other international attractions, but remains strongly devoted to opposing anything related to gambling.