National

Abe's Cabinet approves measures against gambling addiction ahead of Japan's casino openings

Kyodo

The Cabinet on Friday approved a plan to limit customers’ access to betting establishments and remove cash machines from the facilities as the government prepares to curtail problem gambling ahead of the opening of casinos.

Prefectures nationwide will formulate their own efforts based on the government’s plan, with authorities required to take action under the basic law on measures against addiction that was enacted in October.

“We will create a healthy society by thoroughly implementing measures based on the basic plan in order to prevent people from finding themselves in difficult situations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a government meeting.

Japan hopes to see casinos established in up to three places as part of “integrated resorts” comprising hotels, conference facilities and shopping areas by the mid-2020s as it seeks to attract more foreign tourists and boost regional economies.

Under the basic plan covering three years from fiscal 2019, operators of slot machine and pachinko parlors and government-operated gambling venues, including horse racing and keirin (cycling tracks), have been asked to remove ATMs from their facilities.

Pachinko parlor operators have been urged to introduce a system by next spring to restrict entry by certain customers at the request of their family members. The operators of the various gambling venues have been also asked to research how underage people and problem gamblers can be barred from entering casinos through the use of electronic ID systems.

But the measures are mere requests from the government that do not carry penalties.

Among other measures, the government envisions placing advertisements warning against gambling addiction in newspapers and magazines, and on TV. The measures also put a restriction on the value of online bets that can be placed on horse races and other events.

The government seeks to set up consultation and treatment hubs in each of the 47 prefectures and in 20 major cities, with enhanced support to be extended to private organizations that host recovery programs for gambling addiction.

Japan ended its ban on casino gambling when it enacted the integrated resorts promotion law last July amid stiff resistance from the opposition camp and widespread public wariness about the impact of increasing access to gambling.