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Editorial: Proposed casino restrictions not enough to prevent gambling addiction

The executive branch of the government has presented a draft of regulatory criteria for casinos to the ruling coalition. Under the proposal, Japanese customers would be required to pay a 2,000 yen admission fee and the frequency of entries to such establishments would be limited to three times over a seven-day period and 10 times over a 28-day period.

The rules are aimed at keeping people from spending large amounts of time at such facilities, which could lead to gambling addictions. The amount of the admission fee will be written into a bill on the establishment of integrated resorts including casinos, which the government seeks to enact. Such restrictions, however, would do little to effectively limit the number of customers gambling at such facilities.

The government intends to promote the establishment of casinos in a bid to attract more tourists from overseas. However, the plan has raised concerns over how to limit the use of casinos by residents of Japan, who could spend more time at the facilities than tourists and become addicted to gambling.

In Singapore, for example, casinos collect a roughly 8,000 yen admission fee per customer. Nevertheless, gamblers often keep going back in an attempt to win back what they have lost. A 2,000 yen admission fee in Japan is therefore unlikely to deter casino visits, and would be inadequate as a countermeasure against gambling addictions. Moreover, Japan's proposed restrictions on how often people can visit casinos are less strict than in Singapore, where the frequency is limited to eight times a month.

Singaporean authorities send notices to those who visit casinos six times a month or more and instruct them to report their bank account details and other information or provide them with counseling. Moreover, the country places further restrictions on casino visits by those who are uncooperative in these measures.

Japan also needs to implement meticulous measures to limit casino visits by gambling addicts.

In spite of this, many legislators from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have argued one after another that the proposed criteria are too strict. Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner, takes the position that the proposed regulatory measures are inadequate. Depending on how discussions within the ruling coalition unfold, the proposed restrictions could be further loosened.

Gambling addictions represent a serious issue for Japan, and are closely linked to multiple debts and crime. A survey that a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry study group presented last year shows that suspected gambling addicts account for 2.7 percent of adults in urban areas -- which translates into an estimated 2.83 million individuals across the country. The figure could further rise if the ban on casinos were to be lifted under the proposed legislation on integrated resorts.

Along with the integrated resort bill, the ruling coalition has submitted a bill to the Diet that would place an onus on the government to implement countermeasures against gambling addictions, among other issues.

Opposition parties have also submitted a similar bill to the Diet. The legislature should prioritize deliberations on countermeasures against gambling addictions over other matters relating to casinos.

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