Japan comes up with a plan to fight gambling addiction ahead of casino openings

People sit inside a "Pachinko" parlour in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, on March 22, 2019.
People sit inside a "Pachinko" parlour in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, on March 22, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Japan has approved a scheme limiting people's access to casinos and other betting establishments as well as removing cash machines from these locations as part of a plan to stem problems related to gambling.

The moves come ahead of the opening of several casinos in the country.

Based on the plan, prefectures in the East Asian country will also come up with their own steps to counter any gambling-related problems, with the authorities required to take action under a law against addiction which was enacted last October.

"We will create a healthy society by thoroughly implementing measures based on the basic plan in order to prevent people from finding themselves in difficult situations," Kyodo news agency quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga during a government meeting last Friday (April 19).

Japan Today reported that under the basic plan covering three years from 2019, operators of slot machine, pachinko parlours and government-operated gambling venues, including horse racing and keirin racing tracks, have been asked to remove cash machines from their facilities.

Pachinko parlour operators are urged not to allow customers to enter their premises if requested by family members.

It also urged horse racetrack operators to utilise facial recognition systems to restrict the entry of gambling addicts.


However, Japan Today reported that these measures are "mere requests from the government" that do not carry penalties.

Other measures in place include a proposal on putting up warnings about gambling addiction on newspapers, magazines, and in TV commercials.

It also urges the country's 47 prefectures and 20 major cities to set up treatment facilities for gambling addicts by 2020.

Japan enacted a controversial law last July to allow casinos that the government says will boost tourism and growth but was bitterly opposed by the opposition who were concerned with the country's well-documented problem with gambling addiction.

Japan's government has long touted the drive for mega "integrated resorts" (IRs) that will include casinos, entertainment venues, restaurants, hotel and conference halls, on the Las Vegas model.