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Gov't to OK poker for Japan's casinos


TOKYO -- The government has decided to lift the ban on poker in the "integrated resorts" (IR) bill allowing the establishment of casino complexes in Japan.

To maintain fairness, the government had initially planned to restrict gambling at the casinos to games involving a very high degree of chance, such as roulette. However, it has been judged that official casino dealers at each poker table will be able to keep the games fair, even though players face off against each other. Officials expect that allowing the tremendously popular poker at Japan's casinos will increase the IRs' drawing power.

The IR bill currently states that casino operators must be able to guarantee the fairness of the games available, that the games only be available on the casino premises, and that betting games be based on chance outcomes. Under those terms, valid casino games would include roulette, blackjack and Baccarat. Other games where players compete against each other directly and are therefore difficult to keep fair, such as mahjong or gambling on shogi, are expected to be excluded. Poker, too, was expected to be banned at the casinos for the same reason.

However, poker is very popular, to the point that professional poker players are a regular sight at overseas casinos. Pro tournaments in Las Vegas and Macau attract players and fans from all over the world, and industry figures and casino resort planners had pointed out that holding such a tournament in Japan would bring a lot of enthusiasts to the country.

The government took these calls into account, and is now considering ways to guarantee the fairness required for poker to be allowed at Japan's IRs. To prevent card sharks from warping fair competition, the government expects to ban acquaintances from sitting at the same table, while the dealer will be tasked with choosing players from those wishing to join a game, among other measures. The final decision on which games to allow at the casinos will be left up to "casino management committees," administrative organs to be set up after the passage of the IR bill.

(Japanese original by Yusuke Matsukura, Political News Department)

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