A bill that would allow the establishment of integrated resorts including casinos remains a heated topic of debate as an extended session of the Diet moves forward. Deliberations on the bill are set to begin in the House of Councillors soon, but already in the House of Representatives the financial services of casino operators have come into focus as a new point of contention. Legislators must thoroughly debate whether a mechanism under which operators could lend betting money to casino users will be permitted.
Under the bill, the placement of automatic teller machines in casinos and the operation of moneylending businesses at such facilities would be banned. However, casino operators would still be able to lend money to foreigners and to Japanese nationals who deposit a certain amount with the operator.
The problem with this is that people who are hooked on gambling could borrow more money in an attempt to win back their losses. Lending money at casinos could also lead to bankers playing on the psychology of users who want to win. It is a dangerous act that could result in gambling addictions.
It is said that the amount of the deposit will be set by rules governing a casino administration committee after the integrated resort law is enacted. The government has explained that this is a system designed with the wealthy in mind and that the amounts will match conditions in Japan, but there are fears that the scope of people who could wind up with loans could increase, depending on what amount the deposit is set at.
The Moneylending Control Act limits the amount people can borrow to one-third of their yearly income, taking their ability to repay the amount into consideration. But because casinos are not classified as moneylenders, they do not come under such restrictions. This is a major problem.
Casino operators can investigate users’ assets through credit agencies, and each operator will set the level of money lent to an amount it expects the user to be able to repay. The amount of the deposit will have no bearing on how much operators decide to lend out.
The government has explained that it wants to attract more foreign tourists, but it is expected that a large proportion of casino users will be Japanese. The government is targeting the surplus funds of wealthy elderly people. But even if the only income of an elderly person is their pension, if they have a certain level of assets, such as retirement money, it is possible that casino operators could lend them a large amount of betting money.
Since a restriction that initially limited the size of casinos to 15,000 square meters is no longer in place, it will be possible to build large-scale facilities. This and other points imply that priority is being given to the profits of casino operators.
At casinos in other countries there are systems in place to lend money to users under certain conditions. Japan says it will have the highest level of restrictions in the world. But any mechanism that allows people to gamble with more money than they have on them runs counter to measures against gambling addiction.