Government task force proposes ¥2,000 fee for Japanese and foreign nationals entering casinos at planned ‘integrated resorts’

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A government task force on Wednesday presented Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers with a plan to impose a fee of ¥2,000 on Japanese and foreign residents wishing to enter casinos under Japan’s “integrated resort” tourism plan.

The task force proposed the ¥2,000 admission fee to prevent gambling addiction. Current gambling establishments such as pachinko (Japanese pinball) parlors are often criticized for fostering large numbers of addicts.

But at the same time, the government believes the fee is neither “dismissive” nor “outrageously high” enough to have a chilling effect on the appeal of such facilities to potential casino clients.

The proposal was pitched to a meeting of LDP lawmakers, as the government scrambles to map out details on a bill specifying rules for the structure of integrated resorts. The resorts will include casinos, hotels and large event facilities. The bill’s submission to the ongoing ordinary Diet session is reportedly eyed for as early as late March.

According to the government plan, both Japanese and non-Japanese living in the nation will be subject to the ¥2,000 fee. Like Japanese nationals, foreign residents will likely be required to present their My Number identification cards upon entry, said Takeshi Iwaya, an LDP lawmaker who chairs the party’s policy study team on casino issues, while speaking with reporters.

The government plan, meanwhile, stipulates that tourists from overseas will be admitted to casinos free of charge. They will be required to present their passports in lieu of the My Number cards for identification, Iwaya said.

LDP lawmakers present at the meeting voiced mixed reactions to the government proposal.

While some said no admission fee should be imposed on potential clients, others expressed concern that ¥2,000 was not expensive enough to rein in gambling addiction.

Citing his own experiences of having become obsessed with pachinko in the past, Upper House lawmaker Masamune Wada suggested that the admission fee should be raised to as much as ¥8,000 to ¥10,000 to establish casinos as a “luxurious” form of entertainment.

“Although I’d like foreign tourists to fully enjoy the casino experience, I believe there should be a solid anti-addiction system in place as far as Japanese clients are concerned,” Wada said.

In response, a government official who briefed the LDP lawmakers pointed out that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory that a higher admission fee will help keep away gambling addicts. The most hardcore gamblers, the official said, will likely visit casinos no matter how much the fee is.

An online survey conducted by the government in September 2017 found 67,407 of its 159,742 respondents, or about 42 percent, have “no intention of going to casinos regardless of how much the admission fee is.”

As for the remaining 58 percent, or 92,335 respondents, the survey found that 81.2 percent of those are willing to visit casinos if the fee is set at ¥1,000, 49.1 percent were willing at ¥2,000 and 37.5 percent at ¥3,000.

Wednesday’s meeting also saw the government propose a 30 percent tax on the profits made by casino operators, with a view to using the levies to boost tourism, foster cultural and artistic activities and invest in further efforts to fight gambling addiction, Iwaya said.