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ATM removals, facial recognition systems part of gov't plan to tackle gambling addiction

People enjoy cycling races at the Kagawa Prefecture city of Takamatsu, on March 17, 2017. (Mainichi/Kunihiro Iwasaki)

TOKYO -- The government announced on March 7 the draft of a basic plan on measures against gambling addiction that includes the removal of ATMs from racetracks and pachinko parlors and the use of facial recognition systems to restrict admission of gambling addicts to such facilities.

Those who operate horse, cycling, auto and boat racing events, as well as pachinko parlors, would be required to adopt the moves, which will come into effect for three years from fiscal 2019.

The draft is based on the Basic Act on Countermeasures for Gambling Addiction that was enacted last July. The public has the chance to offer their opinions on the steps up to March 26, following which the proposal will be approved at an April Cabinet meeting.

The government is pursuing such measures prior to the establishment of integrated resorts incorporating casinos as there are lingering concerns about the establishment of such facilities.

A total of 11 ATMs had been installed at central and local racecourses and off-track betting offices as of late 2018. The machines are also located at about 1,100 pachinko parlors across Japan. The government it set to remove all ATMs at such facilities from fiscal 2019 as it considers existing measures -- such as eliminating cash advances and setting credit card spending limits -- inadequate. However, it plans to leave some ATMs at such facilities for tourists using foreign cash cards.

Currently, those who operate gambling venues can restrict the entry of gambling addicts with agreement from the person or notification from their family members. But the installation of facial recognition systems will be mulled since there are limitations to maintaining a viable system through the use of security guards, etc.

Other measures in the draft include the creation of new guidelines for advertisements that do not arouse passions for gambling, the early preparation of consultation and treatment centers for addicts in all prefectures and cities designated by government ordinances, school education on gambling addiction and conducting a fact-finding survey on the problem.

(Japanese original by Shu Furukawa, Political News Department)

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