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Casinos are 'magic that turns money into trash,' gambler warns as Diet eyes bill

A man who visits casinos in South Korea or Macau every month shows his casino admission cards in Tokyo. (Mainichi, photo partially modified)

As the Diet prepares to pass a bill authorizing the opening of casinos in Japan, a confessed gambling addict has opened up to the Mainichi Shimbun about the dangers of such facilities, comparing them to "magic that turns money into trash."

"You get a strong thrill when you take a chance," he said. "You can lose your sense of the value of money, and the scary part is there's no limit to it. It's risky."

The man was seen on the casino floor of Galaxy Macau, one of the largest integrated resorts in Macau, in early June. He betted four chips worth 2.8 million yen. If he won, he would double the amount he had bet and if he lost, he would lose the lot. In the end, the man was defeated and lost the 2.8 million yen.

The man said he became addicted to horse racing and pachinko games when he was a high school student. When he was in his mid-20s, he was informed by a friend that he could instantly win more than 10 million yen at casinos. He was excited at the prospect of such huge winnings.

With the aim of turning his life around, he went to a casino in South Korea with all his assets, totaling 1 million yen. He was fascinated by casinos, where gamblers could win or lose hundreds of thousands of yen within a few minutes.

Since then, he has frequented casinos. On one occasion, he continued to play at a casino for 30 consecutive hours during a single visit.

The man says he regards himself a gambling addict and said, "Casinos are like magic that destroys people's sense of the value of money and turns money into trash." He has no intention of giving up gambling at casinos even though his family is fed up with his addiction.

The bill to approve integrated resorts including casinos would limit the frequency of patrons' casino visits to three times in seven days, and set an admission fee of 6,000 yen.

Osamu Mikami, secretary-general of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations' working group on casino and gambling issues, pointed out that people could gamble for 72 consecutive hours at casinos that are open 24 hours a day. He said the restrictions in the bill would not be effective in preventing a person like the man who spoke to the Mainichi from becoming addicted to gambling.

Mikami also called into question a proposed system to allow casino operators to lend money to customers, expressing concerns that such a system could open the way for financial juggling and lead directly to gambling additions.

(Japanese original by Akira Iida, Tokyo City News Department)

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