Japan gambles on casinos to fix its economic woes

Visitors play pachinko, a Japanese form of legal gambling, at a pachinko parlour in Fukushima, Japan, 24 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Authors: Naoko Takiguchi, Otani University and Yuko Kawanishi, JF Oberlin University

By the end of the 2020s, large-scale casinos will arrive in Japan where gambling is strictly prohibited by law and not favoured in opinion polls. There is concern that casinos will increase gambling addiction and criminal activity — but casino supporters loudly advocate their potential power to revitalise Japan’s declining economy.

Amid the heated controversy regarding the establishment of the casino business, a political scandal erupted. Tsukasa Akimoto — a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — was arrested for accepting a bribe from a Chinese company seeking to gain entry to the integrated resort market in Japan, although he denies the allegation. Akimoto was a deputy minister in the Cabinet Office from August 2017 to September 2019 and eager to promote the establishment of casinos.

The bribery scandal is fuelling the anger of those opposed to the government’s casino plan. The most recent opinion poll by the Kyodo News agency on 11 and 12 January shows that more than 70 per cent of respondents want the government to re-examine this casino promotion agenda. Opposition parties are urging the casino plan to be completed dropped.

But as the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito dominate both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is confident about getting the casino policies passed — while repeating he would do so ‘conscientiously’.

Is such an important issue going to be passed without a thorough analysis?

The Japanese government has long avoided fundamental debate regarding the legitimacy of gambling. Japan has never had gambling policies. Even today, comprehensive gambling policies do not exist. Articles 185 and 186 in the Japanese Penal Code state ‘a person who gambles shall be punished by a fine …continue reading