Families of gambling addicts will be able to block their kin from online horse betting under a new system the Japan Racing Association plans to introduce this week.
The JRA said Monday it will begin accepting applications on Thursday from family members living with those clinically diagnosed with gambling disorders or suspected of struggling with its symptoms, based on spending habits.
Once accepted, the JRA will suspend them from betting online.
The move is part of government efforts to curb gambling addiction as it prepares to debate a bill on the structure of so-called integrated resorts that include casinos, which it wants to open for the first time in hopes of boosting tourism and regional economies.
The government wants to see similar restrictions in place at racetracks and off-track betting booths starting next fall but it’s unclear how such measures can be executed.
It also plans to expand online gambling restrictions based on applications submitted by family members to bicycle, motorbike and motorboat racing beginning next April.
An estimated 3.2 million Japanese have likely suffered from gambling addiction, according to a government survey of 4,685 people released in September. It said 0.8 percent of the population between 20 to 74 — a ratio equivalent to around 700,000 people — were likely addicted at some point in the past year, with their average age being 46.5. An average of ¥58,000 was spent on gambling per month.
Pachinko accounted for the most gambling money.
A spokesman for JRA, a public company overseen by the agriculture ministry that manages racecourses and training facilities, said revenue from online betting accounted for roughly 60 percent of its approximately ¥2.6 trillion in annual revenue.
The JRA and the National Association of Racing, which oversees horse races operated by local governments, have already installed a system to restrict online gambling for individual who apply on their own behalf. Based on that system, 14 people have been banned from online betting so far.
Gambling is prohibited in principle in Japan, excluding horse racing and certain motor sports.
Pachinko is considered a kind of quasi-legal gambling, categorized as gaming on the basis of the indirect way players turn their winnings into money. Pachinko balls won at parlors can be exchanged for gifts, which in turn can be exchanged for cash at off-site booths.
Last year, the Diet passed a law to legalize casinos, opening the way for entertainment complexes that combine high-stakes gambling with hotels and other facilities. But legislation is still necessary to sort out details on regulation and tax rates, as well as social issues like compulsive gambling. The bill is expected to be debated when the Diet opens in January.
American casino operators like MGM Resorts International have shown an interest in building such resorts if selected as one of the preferred operators. Meanwhile, various prefectures and municipalities, including Hokkaido and the cities of Yokohama and Osaka, are competing to host one of the first legal gambling complexes in the country.