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An estimated 3.2 million Japanese addicted to gambling

Kyodo

Around 3.2 million Japanese have likely suffered from gambling addiction, a government survey shows, amid renewed concern about pathological gambling since a law to legalize casinos took effect last year.

An interim report on the survey, released Friday, said 3.6 percent of respondents were suspected of having developed gambling addiction at some point, a proportion that works out to around 3.2 million people nationwide.

It also said that 0.8 percent — equivalent to around 700,000 people — likely were addicted at some point in the past year, with the average age at 46.5. Among them, pachinko accounted for the most money spent on gambling, at an average of ¥58,000 per month. The survey of 10,000 adults received valid responses from 4,685. People between ages 20 and 74 were randomly selected for face-to-face interviews at 300 locations.

The expert who oversaw the survey, Susumu Higuchi, director of the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center, said it would aid “not only the government but medical practitioners to work toward better treatment.”

The government is planning to open casinos in “integrated resorts” encompassing hotels, conference rooms, theaters and other entertainment facilities in the hope of boosting tourism and local economies.

A bill requiring the central and local governments to formulate concrete plans to combat addiction, such as setting up advice lines, was submitted by the ruling coalition to the House of Representatives in June but had to be scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved on Thursday.

While the survey organizer said the data for Japan could not be strictly compared with those from other countries due to differences in methodology, the report noted that the figures for suspected gambling addicts in 11 other countries and regions — including the United States, South Korea and Hong Kong — were lower, in the range of 0.2 to 2.4 percent.

As part of efforts to combat gambling addiction, the government decided recently to establish a system by the end of fiscal 2022 to limit online race betting. Currently, race betting is legally restricted to horse, powerboat, bicycle and motorcycle racing.