Soccer lottery bill rolls past Lower House

A soccer lottery bill cleared the House of Representatives on May 27, bringing the government one step closer to enacting a controversial method to obtain public funds for sports programs.

The Japanese Communist Party was the only party to come out against the bill in the plenary session, although some individual lawmakers from other parties voted no or abstained. Abstentions included Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Naoto Kan, coleader of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Submitted by a nonpartisan group of lawmakers, the bill would allow sales of lottery tickets based on match results of the J. League professional soccer league. Tickets would be sold in 100 yen units, with winnings pegged to the percentage of correct guesses on game results.

If the bill is enacted, lottery sales would probably be introduced in 1999. The maximum prize would be more than 100 million yen.

Its proponents estimate that sales would reach about 180 billion yen a year. Of the total revenue, 50 percent would go for lottery winnings, 17.5 percent for sports promotion, 17.5 percent would go into the national treasury and 15 percent would be used to operate the lottery.

Its enactment has been long supported by the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japan Amateur Sports Association, which have complained that insufficient public funding has resulted in poor performances by Japanese athletes at international competitions. Opposing the bill is a number of organizations who say the lottery would have a negative influence on young people. They include the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, National Federation of Regional Women’s Organizations, and parents’ and teachers’ associations across the nation.