Health Ministry Says 5% of Japanese Adults Are Addicted to Gambling
A new study shows that up to 5% of Japanese adults are addicted to gambling. If true, then the number would be roughly five times the standard addiction rate for most countries.
The Japanese Health Ministry study also researched levels of addiction to alcohol and the Internet. The study showed that the Japanese adult population shows a significant level of problem behavior.
Japanese Attitudes to Drinking and Technology
Japan is known to have an open attitude about drinking. The Japanese people are world famous for their love of technology. Their attitude towards gambling is a great deal more ambivalent, so outsiders might not know about their traditional concerns about gambling.
Casino Gambling Bill Being Discussed
That issue has come to the forefront recently, because the administration of Abe Shizuke is seeking to pass a casino gambling bill. Shizuke wants to build casinos in Tokyo, Osaka, and select other Japanese cities by 2020, when the Tokyo Summer Olympics occur.
If casino gambling is not allowed in Japan, one might wonder of the concerns about gambling addiction. Japanese gaming interests collect more money from gaming machines than any other country on Earth–more than the United States or China.
Japanese Gambling Culture: Pachinko Parlors
Japan has its own unique gambling industry. In the case of Japan, the gaming machines are called “pachinko”, which are found in the seemingly-ubitquitous pachinko parlors. Pachinko machines look somewhat similar to American pinball machines. People win or lose depending on how many balls make it into specific slots or holes.
The ambivalence about gambling in the Japanese culture comes from the betting aspect of pachinko. Japanese laws ensure that people cannot bet on games for real money. To skirt those laws, pachinko players win balls–not money. A convenient vending booth is found nearby the parlor, which will pay players money for those balls. Therefore, a gambler doesn’t cash in prizes at the parlor, but at a vendor nearby. The balls are quickly returned to the parlor, of course.
Integrated Casino Resorts
Now the Japanese government is considering an expansion of gambling, by erecting Las Vegas style casinos. These integrated resorts would be found in “special zones” set aside for gaming. It is estimated such businesses would generate $40 billion a year in revenue, but the plan is controversial in the Japanese islands.
Health Ministry Study
The Health Ministry study questioned 7,000 Japanese adults from all economic classes. Of the 7,000 people quizzed, 4,153 were deemed to have given legitimate answers. Of these, 8.7% of the men and 1.8% of the women fit the international standard for problem gambling.
From those numbers, researchers suggested that 4.8% of the adult population (or 5.36 million people) could be described as pathological gamblers–that is, they cannot resist the impulse to gamble.
According to the Nikkei newspaper, one of the researchers told lawmakers that the world average for most countries “stands more or less around one percent of the adult population. So Japan’s ratio is high.”
Alcohol and Internet Addiction
The studies also gave data for Internet addiction and alcohol addiction. The study found that 4.21 million adults showed signs of online addiction. That number is 50% higher than it was just 5 years ago. The coming of new age cellphone and smartphone technology is thought to account for the uptick in Internet addiction.
Over 1 million Japanese adults are thought to have a drinking problem. That number has risen from 830 thousand adults with an alcohol addiction 10 years ago. According to Susumu Higuchi, the leading addiction expert in Japan, the study shows clears signs that the younger generation in Japan appears to have addictive problems, among the worst in the world.
Society Concerned about the Gambling Addiction
The researchers did not give their opinion on whether casino gambling should be approved by the parliament, but activists in Japan have not been shy with their opinions. Noriko Tanaka, director of “Society Concerned about the Gambling Addiction”, says the Japanese people have ill-formed opinions about problem gambling. Tanaka said, “There is an absolute lack of preventive education for (gambling) addiction.”
Tanaka added that she and her group are not calling for a ban of gambling, but they are calling for more educational and support resources from those who are suffering from gaming addiction. Often, families of those who have problems gaming in pachinko parlors suffer alongside the addict. Tanaka added, “We are not calling for a ban on gambling and we recognise it has its own economic merits. But we must also discuss the negative economic and social impacts.”