Agroup of lawmakers is now considering a bill that would allow resorts to combine their hotel, shop and restaurant complexes with gambling. If the bill passes, casinos could become a Japanese industry worth several trillion yen.
With the government facing an expensive reconstruction bill from the March 11 disasters, the Japanese government is even more vulnerable to the intensive lobbying efforts of the international gambling industry.
Casino revenue may seem like an easy source of revenue, but the problems associated with gambling taking root as a social habit and as an established industry are extensive. It is unlikely that gambling will solve the serious long-term challenges of the Japanese economy. Many of the companies pushing for legalizing casinos are based in Macau, Singapore or Las Vegas.
If the gamblers are Japanese and the companies foreign, that will mean gambling revenues can easily become a net outflow of cash from Japan, a possibility made even more likely by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. There is little assurance the cash flow will be in the right direction.
Casino operators argue that the industry will create jobs, but gambling is just as susceptible to the economy as any other industry. Those jobs do not necessarily result in a larger stimulation of the entire economy, nor do they prime the pump of consumer spending or contribute substantially to other industries. The amount of money spent on other leisure, consumption or recreation activities may also suffer a downturn when personal budgets are spent on gambling.
Gambling can become a serious addiction, bringing with it a host of social problems. Last fall, the former chairman of Daio Paper Corp., Mr. Mototaka Ikawa, was arrested after he siphoned funds from his subsidiaries to cover ¥10 billion in gambling losses.
It should be remembered that no matter how the finances are structured or regulated, profits for the casino always come from losses by individuals.
Supporters may argue that Japan already allows gambling on pachinko, lotteries and various forms of racing. However, adding large-scale casinos inside hotel complexes will be a considerable expansion and encouragement of gambling.
As with tobacco, long a source of government tax revenue, the long-term problems, such as addiction, potential corruption and little economic benefit, weigh much more heavily than the short-term income of tax revenue. Casino gambling will not solve any of Japan’s long-term economic problems, which demand more reasoned and productive solutions.