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Editorial: Casino bill is a bad gamble, no matter how you look at it

  • June 11, 2018
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 1:25 p.m.
  • English Press

Given that casinos are venues for acts of gambling forbidden by the Penal Code, one is left to wonder why there is a need for special legislation now to establish facilities of this nature.

 

That question has not been satisfactorily answered. The central government and ruling parties plan to soon have ready a draft bill for developing “integrated resorts,” including casinos, passed by the Lower House. The way they are rushing things to contain objections is unacceptable.

 

All sorts of problems have surfaced during the course of deliberations in the Diet.

 

There are, to begin with, concerns about a further spread of gambling addiction.

 

The draft bill would restrict entry to a maximum of three times a week and 10 times in 28 days.

 

Unlike pachinko and horse racing, however, casinos can be operated around the clock. A player can continue hanging around one without cooling off.

 

Officials say a system will be made available to ban entry to individuals at their own volition or their family’s request. But one can only ask how effective such voluntary declarations would be.

 

It is also problematical that casino operators would be allowed to lend money to their customers. Such a setup is prohibited in publicly operated forms of gambling on the grounds that customers could end up immersed in debt if the operators were allowed to fund them.

 

This poses a question of consistency.

 

In reference to this point, the central government has explained that a loan will only be made after the borrower’s solvency and other circumstances are investigated, and a deposit is taken. Officials have said, however, that details of the system will only be defined by a Cabinet order after the bill becomes law. That means there is no way for in-depth discussions on the issue.

 

The central government has only been stressing the positive sides of integrated resorts.

 

“A comprehensive resort integrated with an international convention hall and other facilities would serve as a catalyst for business,” it said on one occasion. “Integrated resorts are expected to help develop regional communities and create jobs,” it said on another.

 

In reality, however, integrated resorts would involve substantial costs, for example, to maintain public security and address addiction. Talking of their advantages alone without taking account the negative impact on the economy amounts to peddling a dream tale.

 

It has become clearer that the integrated resorts are aimed at attracting Japanese customers. Local governments that are eager to host a resort of that category, including Osaka Prefecture, have estimated that Japanese would account for 70-80 percent of all customers.

 

The central government’s explanation, which says the integrated resorts are designed to attract visitors from abroad to help Japan turn into a tourism power, is obviously at odds with the assumptions of the local governments that could be hosting such facilities.

 

Casinos are premised on the presence of unhappy losers. They produce no new value, either.

 

The central government has not fully answered the question, raised by the opposition, of whether the creation of casinos really deserves the name of a sound growth strategy.

 

The integrated resorts promotion law, which provides a basis for the integrated resorts development bill, was steamrolled through to a vote and enacted late in 2016 without sufficient discussions. The same mistake should not be repeated.

 

A draft bill for introducing a basic law on measures against gambling addiction is likely to be passed during the current Diet session. That will finally allow Japan to set out in earnest, belatedly, measures to fight addiction.

 

By no means is it reasonable to clear the way, precisely at a time like this, for setting up new facilities that would only create more addicts.

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