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Former mayor lauds grass-roots movement opposing opening of casino resorts

4 Comments
Image: REUTERS file

From last month, sports news in Japan has been dominated by revelations that Ippei Mizuhara, interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers' superstar Shohei Ohtani, is believed to embezzled as much as $16 million from Ohtani to feed his addiction to sports betting.

In the latest revelations, Yukan Fuji (Apr 16) reported that Mizuhara had informed a Japanese government investigator that Ohtani had not bothered to log on to check the balance of his bank account over the past three years.

One of Japan's most outspoken opponents of gambling is Fusaho Izumi, the former mayor of Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture, who lets loose with a broadside in Flash (April 23).

Izumi notes that most of the local media coverage of Mizuhara focuses on flaws in his character, with scant attention being paid to what is clearly a pathological case of gambling addiction.

This addiction appears to be widespread among Japanese. Spa (Apr 23-30) cited an international survey of gambling addiction conducted by the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Yokosuka. Its findings showed that Japan ranked the highest among major nations, with an estimated 3.6% of its population believed to be suffering from gambling addiction, as opposed to the Netherlands (1.9%), France (1.2%), Switzerland (1.1%), Canada (0.9%) and Italy (0.4%).

From a medical standpoint, gambling addition is viewed as a psychological disorder, but the prevailing attitude in society appears to be that individuals are ultimately responsible for their own acts.

In Japan, legal forms of gambling are subject to tight controls and until casinos begin operation from around 2030, the so-called public benefit gaming -- such as horse racing, bicycle racing and motorboat racing -- remains the most widespread. The organizers' takes on these generally run between 20% and 30%, or in other words, out of ¥1 million in betting receipts, the organizer keeps between ¥200,000 to ¥300,000, with the remaining ¥700,000 paid out to the bettors.

"Payouts are set so that the organizer always profits," Izumi asserts. "To believe a person can profit from a single winning bet is a misperception."

In casinos meanwhile, the house take may be lower than 20% to 30%, but because larger bets tend to be placed, overall profits are also greater. In the case of Japan's Takarakuji lottery, the organizer's take is around 50%. Or to look at it from another perspective, writes Izumi cynically, about half the outlays for lottery tickets go down the drain.

Izumi, during his 12-year tenure as Akashi's mayor, points to his city's favorable supreme court judgement in opposing the opening of a "sarakin" (high-interest loan business) office in his city.

"Our city also opened a consultation center for gambling addiction, working in conjunction with the NPO National Association of Family Members of Gambling Addicts," Izumi added. "The center made available attorneys and physicians."

Although Akashi remains the only city in Japan offering such services, Izumi expressed the hope that more communities will follow his example.

Akashi also held seminars on gambling addiction for its municipal workers, bringing in author Noriko Tanaka, who heads another anti-gambling NPO, as one of the lecturers.

Ms Tanaka -- who herself admits to having once been a habitual gambler -- had previously consulted with the Nihon Ishin no Kai and Liberal Democratic parties, which are backing the opening of an integrated resort in Osaka Bay in 2030. The two parties had assured Tanaka they would "give consideration to gambling addition" during the resort's planning stage, but Tanaka said she felt "hoodwinked" by their inaction.

"Once the casino is opened, it's certain that gambling addicts will increase, leading to more lives ruined," asserts Izumi.

Izumi was heartened to see grass roots movements springing up in opposition to the casinos, noting that following Yokohama, whose mayor's election defeat led to a successful recall campaign, Osaka's mayor was also dealt a "body blow" when, in a survey conducted in April 2023, residents opposed to the casino outvoted those in favor by a margin of 10%.

Ref: https://agbrief.com/news/japan/05/04/2023/survey-shows-47-of-osaka-citizens-are-against-ir-plan/

© Japan Today

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4 Comments
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Some folk are just more susceptible to addiction. It can mean gambling, alcohol, exercise, dieting, collecting things, disordered eating or stalking people. If it isn't one thing, they will become addicted to another. They are often fiendishly clever at hiding it from their families, until they get arrested, or the bailiffs turn up at the door.

Psych support services do need to be improved, but banning everyone from doing something because some people become addicted to it is daft. And it doesn't work. You would just push the addicts into underground betting run by the yaks.

The casinos are intended to milk rich foreigners, pulling trade from Macau and Dubai. Most (if not all) of the people who are complaining about it wouldn't be allowed through the door.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I'd be interested in seeing statistics, if they exist, for compulsive gamblers in Asian countries, where cockfights, fighting fish, etc. are popular. And of course mahjongg.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

As much as I think that gambling is bad and a terrible waste of money, I don't think casinos will make much of a difference in Japan. People with a gambling addiction are already addicted to pachinko.

I think the resorts could be a good thing if they, like Las Vegas, has become a hub for shows and concerts as well and not only centered around gambling.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Casino’s are not the main problem but the sub culture inevitably linked to them is.

The junkets, in whatever form, the most violent but also other facilitators( other loan sharks, prostitution ( although in Japan as elsewhere already very organised) , pickpockets, laundrymoney…

also a huge IR resort changes, if only because of its size, the social structure of an environment. ( many young people can suddenly get not to hard working well paid jobs, so why go to Univ ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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