The Japanese National Diet is debating a variety of proposed casino laws, including policies which would limit the effects of problem gambling on Japan’s land-based casino bettors. Critics of the proposed regulations say the policies could be easily circumvented.

Japan’s casino bill would legalize a handful of land-based casinos throughout Japan for the first time in the nation’s history. The idea is to draw tourists who otherwise might visit Macau or Singapore — the other major casino destinations in Asia — but also to generate an estimated $10 billion to $25 billion in taxable income for the Japanese government.

Called the Integrated Resort Bill or, more commonly, the IR Bill, the legislation is part of Shinzo Abe’s attempt to revitalize the Japanese economy. The IR Bill was passed in rough form in December 2016, but that legislation simply stated an intention to legalize casinos. Throughout 2017 and 2018, a panel of lawmakers have sought to nail down the regulations.

My Number Card Restrictions

One proposal would limit the number of days Japanese nationals and permanent foreign residents can visit a casino in a week’s time or a month’s time. Japanese gamblers could not visit a land-based casino more than 3 days in an consecutive 7-day period. Players also could not enter casinos more than 10 times in any 28-day period.

The proposal includes the requirement Japanese gamblers use a “My Number” card. This would be presented to casino staff upon entry, scanned to track the day, and returned to the customer. The “My Number” system keeps track of its holder’s tax history, medical insurance, pension payment history, and other vital details. Such cards are issued to Japanese citizens and permanent residents, as well.

My Number cards can be used to verify the age of its holder. Such identification also can be primed to idenify the number of days a person has visited a casino in a week or a month. If the cardholder exceeds their limit, they are flagged and cannot enter the casino.

IR Bill Follows Singapore’s Casino Regulations

Those close to panel negotiations say Japan’s policy makers have studied Singapore’s casino laws closely, hoping to emulate the city-state’s model. Player restrictions is one influence from the Singapore model, but so is a self-exclusion policy which would allow players to self-ban themselves from the casino for periods of time.

Japanese Self-Exclusion Laws

Self-exclusion laws are common throughout the western world Australia, the UK, and New Jersey. If a player feels they cannot control their compulsive behavior, that player can add their name to a self-ban registry. In most countries, the self-exclusion list includes various ban periods, including 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, or a lifetime. Once added to the list, casinos throughout the jurisdiction are required to enforce the ban, while the player cannot change their decision — even when the compulsion to gamble strikes them.

Such laws require a lot of fine-tuning. Choose the amount of time a ban is enforced is one factor. For instance, UK’s online gambling industry now has a “panic button” which allows much shorter inactive periods, including 48 hours, 1 week, or 1-2 months. Some countries’ self-exclusion list is private, so players do not hesitate to self-exclude themself, do to their gaming habits becoming public in future years. Japan’s leaders have to decide whether anonymity is important.

The Realities of a Japanese Casino Bill

Forward-thinking restrictions are important, because many Japanese lawmakers believe casinos could introduce social problems. In fact, a majority of Japanese voters think the IR Bill could cause problems. In a country which places such a premium on social harmony, a number of controls need to be installed to allow integrated casinos to be built at all.

Makoto Watanabe, a professor of Communications & Media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, told the South China Morning Post, “There are a lot of people who think there are going to be a lot of new problems associated with casinos as soon as they start to open — the worries surrounding gambling addiction are genuine and it will be extremely difficult for the authorities to enforce these rules that they have suggested.”

Watanabe Warns of Underground Trade

Professor Watanabe warned that certain policies would not work as well in practice as they might seem on paper. The Hokkaido Bunkyo professor warned, “Anyone who wants to gamble enough will borrow their My Number card from a friend or steal someone’s – I can see a growing underground trade in these cards that will be difficult to stop.”

The media expert then invoked the yakuza as a further warning to those designing the Japanese casino regulations. Watanabe said, “I hear stories that the yakuza are very excited about the government’s plans as well…The government has said that it will take every measure possible to ensure that organized crime does not get involved in casinos, but they have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, so it will be hard to determine which companies are legitimate and which are fronts for the underworld.”

One should be on their guard anytime a speaker says “I hear stories…”, but Makoto Watanabe is probably correct in thinking Japan’s organized crime would try to find ways to make profit off of Japan’s casino economy. Insiders believe the IR Bill might be finished by the summer of 2018.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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