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The opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai is proposing new legislation to deal with problem gamblers, hoping to speed up the debate after a bill legalizing casinos in Japan was rammed through the Diet in December.

The Osaka-centric party, which is close to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on many issues, hopes that cooperation with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP on the issue will help ensure the city becomes one of those picked for a casino resort license, if not the first.

“The Nippon Ishin bill sets out a variety of measures to deal with problem gamblers to ensure that the problem is dealt with in a comprehensive manner,” said Hitoshi Asada, the party’s policy chief.

On Feb. 9, the party submitted a bill targeting problem gamblers and their families to the Upper House. In an attempt to address strong public opposition to casinos, the bill identified the need for policies to deal with crime, suicide, poverty, debts and other problems that occur as a result of problem gambling.

It also stipulated the need for the government to establish a basic program to deal with problem gambling that will be subject to revision at least once every five years.

In addition, municipalities would have to map out plans for combating problem gambling that also would be reviewed every five years.

The bill calls for policies that set the rules for casino advertising and admission charges and says they are to be drawn up only after taking into consideration how to prevent addiction. Other proposals include measures for having specialized medical professionals and a medical system in place to provide assistance.

Nippon Ishin has also proposed funding a public relations campaign.

Each year from the end of June until the beginning of July would be declared Gambling Awareness Week, with a variety of PR activities undertaken to educate and remind people of the dangers of gambling.

Nippon Ishin’s proposal also puts the obligation of dealing with problem gamblers on central and regional governments, casino operators, the people of Japan and health professionals.

With over a dozen places nationwide having already expressed varying degrees of interest in hosting an integrated resort, or IR, with a casino, the kinds of problem gambling initiatives created by these governments will likely play a large role in the central government’s timing for granting casino licenses.

But the questions of who should take the lead on gambling addiction and who should take the lion’s share of the responsibility for identifying and dealing with them are likely to be sources of tension and debate among the various players.

The central government is proposing that, while the Diet should set the national framework, regional governments and casino operators need to take the lead in dealing with concerns about problem gamblers.

On the other hand, cash-strapped regional governments hoping to host casino resorts worry that, without strong guarantees of central government support, including funding, to deal with gambling addiction and other social problems that arise from casinos, local opposition will be difficult to overcome.

For now, Nippon Ishin hopes the bill will push the Diet debate on how to move the debate on casinos rules forward. A decision by the Diet to delay passage by the end of the year would be bad news for the party’s Osaka faction, which has its own timetable for an Osaka casino.

“Ideally, at least part of an integrated resort would open in Osaka by 2023, and that would be in operation to welcome the World Expo in 2025” that Osaka is bidding for and that will be decided next year, said Nippon Ishin co-leader and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui.

Kansai Perspective appears on the fourth Monday of each month, focusing on Kansai-area developments and events of national importance with a Kansai connection.

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