Who will casinos hit hardest?


Back in 1998 when Tokyo was near bankruptcy, then-Gov Shintaro Ishihara had what seemed to him a luminous idea – a casino. Moneyed gamblers would pour in from all over the world, stimulating the local economy and filling government coffers. Gambling was illegal in Japan; the law would have to be changed; but that’s what government is for.

It didn’t work. The public opposed it – so strongly that the plan was finally scrapped in 2003.

An interesting comparison is Singapore. When that city-state hit financial shoals in the 1980s, leaders there, too, thought of casinos. There, too, was opposition, but it was weathered at last and in 2010 two casinos opened. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured one in 2014, he saw in it just what Japan needs to pull it out of its financial doldrums. Armed with robust majorities in both houses of the Diet, his Liberal Democratic Party rammed new legislation through opposition objections after barely six hours of debate.

Casino gambling is now legal in Japan. Casinos will follow. What will they bring?

Nothing good, Josei Seven (Feb 9) fears, and plenty of bad: gambling addiction, organized crime, prostitution, indebtedness, and deterioration of law and order.

Even supporters of casinos, the magazine says, were appalled at how little debate preceded the enabling legislation. You’d think it was an open and shut case – but even from the strictly economic point of view, says Shizuoka University sociologist Yoichi Torihata, the idea was oversold. “The U.S. casino market is saturated, and revenue is falling off in Macao and Singapore.” Clearly it’s no panacea.

South Korea, says Josei Seven, is a cautionary tale. Of 17 legal casinos nationwide, only one, Kangwonland about 200 km from Seoul, is open to South Koreans; the others are exclusively for foreigners. Kangwonland seems to have spawned the term “casino homeless.” Having gambled themselves into poverty, victims find themselves stranded in skid row hotels or reduced to sleeping in saunas and suchlike facilities. Cars circulate through town with a message written on them: “Dad, don’t commit suicide!”

Japan’s vulnerability to this sort of thing is plain even pre-casino. Horse racing, bicycle racing and lotteries are legal, as is pachinko, though technically not classified as gambling. As of 2013 – a year before Abe’s Singapore visit – the health ministry estimated 5.36 million suspected gambling addicts in Japan – “top,” says Josei Seven, “in the developed world.”

“The rush you get from gambling, says psychologist Tomomi Katada, “is like sexual pleasure. It’s irresistible. You know you shouldn’t do it but can’t help yourself.”

Not everyone who gambles is an addict, of course, but if addicts number in the millions years before the sod is turned for the nation’s first casino, it’s hard not to fear a proliferation of them once they’re in operation. Particularly susceptible, says Josei Seven, are women and the poor – the former because they have so much more stress to escape from than men (the dual responsibility of work and home, professional glass ceilings, and so on); the latter because the windfall that will lift them out of poverty seems so close, so close, a mere flick of the cards or turn of the wheel away).

Casinos as envisaged are to be embedded in “integrated resorts” – of which, Abe has repeatedly stressed, they will occupy a mere 3% of floor space, the rest being given over to theme parks, restaurants, shopping malls and so on. So what’s the problem? he seems to be asking. Josei Seven has an answer for him. The family-friendly environment is itself part of the problem. The whole family goes together. Mom shops, dad gambles, the kids head off to the amusement park. At dinnertime they meet at a restaurant and talk over their day. Dad is flush from the excitement of gambling. The kids pick up on it, grow curious, become gamblers in embryo, then gamblers for real.

Is this really, the magazine is asking, the best way to stoke Japan’s economy?

© Japan Today

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Who will suffer? The same people who always suffer: those that can least afford it or control it.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Japan is invariably late to the game when it comes to almost everything, and these proposed casinos will probably end up being but one example of that. Singapore got in on the windfall early on, at the ground floor.

Once built in/around 2021, the casinos in Japan are supposed to generate most of their revenue by bringing in wealthy tourists from China and elsewhere in Asia. The problem is with relations between China and America/Japan now fraying, it seems fairly likely that inbound tourist numbers could drop off substantially by 2021, which would leave these casinos relying much more on domestic demand to generate revenues, which kind of defeats the purpose.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"You know you shouldn’t do it but can’t help yourself"

Well, I can't say that is my response to sexual pleasure.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Who will suffer? as Artist at Large says, those who can't afford it.

As for Abe's impeccable timing: first he wants to go global with nuclear power sales as the market for nuclear power plants is plummeting, now he wants to jump on the casino bandwagon, an innovation that left the profit parade years ago.

Can't he notice that his new orange-faced god has bankrupted at least four casinos?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I've been following the casino issue since early in the 1970s. At that time Okinawans were considering opening casinos on the island of Okinawa to attract visitors from outside ... but the national government said: Nonsense. Creating a second Macao in Okinawa sounded good to me ... and still sounds good. Now the same party in power that was in power back in the 1970s is saying casinos might be good for Tokyo ... and perhaps all of mainland Japan. Too bad Okinawa didn't get a chance to try its luck at running casinos ... I think they might have been successful down there.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“The rush you get from gambling, says psychologist Tomomi Katada, “is like sexual pleasure. It’s irresistible. You know you shouldn’t do it but can’t help yourself.” Not. Even. Close.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

gambling addiction, organized crime, prostitution, indebtedness, and deterioration of law and order.

Japan already has this without casinos.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

A major problem Japan seems to have historically is over doing on whatever new fad comes. Like the theme park boom of the 80s, I see companies building a lot of casinos in random places hoping tourists come to them...only to dry up in a matter of years.

Indeed, for this to work, a zone needs to be set up, like in Okinawa, where several resorts and casinos can build up in tandem to create a big resort area. Japan has to understand it is not just providing more casino choices... it would be competing directly with other established areas like Vegas. Heck, knowing Japanese pricing, it could very well be cheaper for Chinese to goto Vegas than Japan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Casinos are nothing but parasites, sucking the lifeblood out of those they profit form. They add nothing to the economy, but redeploy resources that should be better used elsewhere.

Yes, they can be a fun escape for some as part of a holiday - the Las Vegas visit - see a show, have a few meals, spend a couple of hundred on Blackjack. But casinos make their money from the small percentage of customers who are enslaved to them, who throw everything they have at them and then more.

Avoid them. If the Chinese want to gamble, they can go to Macau. For the Japanese, at least the slow trickle of shiny balls in pachinko and the prizes on offer limits the speed of losses and perceived rewards of success.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Sadly Japanese politicians do not understand the world trend and still play dumb politics thinking TAXes will help improve Japan or assure Japan"s future. While economics definitely is something to be concerned about, the nature of the economy is not revenue or government guidance and control of economic conditions as much as the quality and ability of those people who are capable producing goods and services. By bringing in gambling besides the gaming which ultimately rubs people of their hard earned income and ability to continue to be productive in society including economically. It makes more and more people dependent those who are able to produce effectively and efficiently and reduce the number of people capable of taking care of themselves. In effect a dependent society.

Worse the gaming and gambling habit is now called a disease and takes heavy toll on society, especially socially and economically. It is like a drug addiction then. and such addiction costs more, adding unnecessary burden on economy while reducing productivity and destroys society.

In effect, gambling and gaming ultimately affects everyone and everyone loses. Japan cannot afford to lose the productivity of the people by rubbing them of their precious "time" and money. Most of all it robs the people of their humanity and purpose in life. In an already declining population with more and more elderly who are not allowed to work and fully dependent on meager government assistance, why rob them of their sustenance?

Gaming and gambling legal or not is NEVER designed to help those who gamble. When the population loses, the country loses.

Foreigners play only a small part of any gaming and gambling income for any government. It enriches those who are privileged to run those operations and depletes the wealth f the nation as a whole.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As Frank Sinatra said about another town with legalized gambling..."Las Vegas is the only place I know where money really talks--it says, Goodbye". Wise words.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

depends on the regulations and enforcement. I don't see any organized crime, prostitution or deterioration of law and order in the Singapore casinos.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Aren't Singaore Casinos closed to locals?

While it is true that Asians are heavy into gambling, I can't see IR working out except for the overseas Operators.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A form of entertainment? Maybe, if a person can not control their spending that could mean real trouble for them!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The nearest Pinchinco,s

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm not much of a gambler, but I do enjoy the occasional rush you get at a nice casino. Plus the subsidized food is usually cheap, plentiful, and delicious.

I hardly think that a casino center over in Odaiba is going to suck the blood out of anyone, much less the working class of Japan.

Why not give people the choice to go or not go, and another thing for tourists to enjoy (and spend their money on)?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Who will casinos hit hardest?

Oh, let's not be so negative.

Who will casinos benefit the most?

The denizens of exclusive Ginza clubs, of course.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The easiest solution is to ban Japanese (and Japanese residents) from casinos in Japan. There is no benefit to the economy from having Japanese gamble away their money as it only means less money will be spent on other things.

The government argument that casinos will boost the economy can only be true if money comes in from overseas. Therefore, only people from overseas should be allowed in. Of course, that will never happen as the LDP supporters who paid for the legislation to pass the Diet wouldn't make anywhere near enough profit if Japanese were banned from casinos.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Idiots will suffer. I gamble when I have money to burn, I don't gamble to get rich. Gambling is a game, just like any game out there where you spend money in return for fun.

Casinos are fine and they will be welcome here! Much better than crappy Pachinko.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A few will win big, but the masses will lose. The gambling industry does not produce anything and thus does not add any value to the standard of living (on the whole). It's foolish to think that any business besides those directly related to the casinos will make any money.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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