In December, a partisan group of lawmakers submitted a bill to the Japanese Parliament that aims to finally allow and promote the establishment of casinos in Japan. And with the Diet looking to start deliberations in its current sessions, Japan may need to look at what social woes gambling and casinos may bring to the country, looking at the experience and examples of other nations.
According to a report by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper – whose reporters recently visited overseas casinos and the areas around them – Japan has to be ready for a wave of gambling-related issues if ever casinos were legalized in the country. Visiting an area in South Korea – in Gangwon province where the Kangwon Land Casino has relatively recently been built – the report says that there is an endemic situation of gambling addiction. Old men in the 50s to 60s spend whole days and nights at the casino spending around 700,000 won (about 66,000 yen, or US$660) on the average. The Korean man, 63 years old, said that he got hooked with the casino around a year and a half ago, after winning 3 million won in just one day. He had then quit his hobby of horse-riding and saved his money – even to the point of not buying alcohol and cigarettes – just to have money to gamble at the casino. Now he is receiving counselling at a gambling addiction help center.
The casino itself is surrounded by cheap lodging houses – this is where the “casino homeless” live, gamblers who have lost all their assets. “More than 100 people are in such a situation,” said an officer of a local police station. “They save money by working in the casino. Then they lose it by playing in the casino. They keep repeating those practices.” When the Kangwon casino opened in 2000, the town had a population of around 25,000. Now, only 15,000 have stayed, mainly because parents raising children have left. “After the casino was established, pawn shops and bars have increased in number,” a local resident said. “Massage parlors offering sexual services have also been set up. Nobody wants to raise their children in such an environment.”
In Macau, a special administrative region of China and the world’s current casino and gambling capital, reporters found that the bigger the stakes, the bigger the issues that surround the place. Macau’s casinos are world-renowned, and yet they can’t shake the image that gangsters, international and local mobs are involved in the action. Suspicions abound that some junkets – gamblers and tourists who are brought to Macau via an intermediate agent – are involved in money laundering or have relations with gangsters. Junkets are critical for casinos, especially if Japan chooses to legalize them. “If casinos become legal in Japan, their success depends on how many Chinese people they can obtain as VIP customers,” said Ayaka Yoshida, 28, who works at a Japanese-operated junket in Macau. So will Japan legalize gambling? It is certainly a possibility, but with the boost in economy comes very real social problems that the country must be ready to deal with.
Comments Off on JDP Startup Corner: Pros & Cons of Working with a Partner in Japan