Japan Flag Casino Chip

Japan Building First Ever Casino

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a local story, but there is some really illuminating stuff in here that it would be interesting to discuss.

In Japan, many forms of gambling have been illegal for a long time, with a few exceptions like horse racing and motor sports, as well as a lottery and football pools that have been given special dispensation.

Despite this, Japan has one of the biggest gambling problems in the world at 2.2% of the population – that’s around 2.8 million people.

This is down to two reasons, the first being that one of the most popular gambling games in the country, pachinko, isn’t actually classed as a gambling game. Yet, people spent almost £89 billion on it in 2020!

Secondly, as tends to happen when you make something illegal that a lot of people want though, the illegality has pushed a lot of gambling underground, with casinos existing in the criminal world run by gangs like the Yakuza.

But Japan has just approved the country’s first ever legal casino, and the world is taking note.

Third Largest Economy in the World

Japan Economy

Japan is only a small country, with about the same land mass as California and a population of 126 million.

That means it’s about 1.5 times the size of the UK, and yet, it is the third largest economy in the world, behind China and the USA.

Understandably then, the global gambling industry has been interested in expanding to Japan for a long time, and the country has been debating the idea for decades.

Finally, the Western coastal city of Osaka has had their bid to build a casino accepted in parliament, with “sufficient examination from various perspectives” having been considered.

The law was actually passed way back in 2018, but it has taken this long to get to the next stage, even after a nationwide poll showed that 64.8% of those who replied didn’t want casinos in the country – although 45% of Osaka residents were happy for it to go ahead.

It is hoped that the casino complex will bring in around 20 million national and domestic tourists each year, generating around £31 billion.

Japan’s prime minister , Fumio Kishida, hoped that the complex would:

“become a tourism base that will disseminate the charm of Japan to the world”.

He might well hope that, but I bet he’s more interested in that £31 billion.

Gaming Paradise

Japan First Casino

What I found particularly interesting about this story, were the problem gambling measures they are putting in place, and the artist’s impressions of what the complex might look like and how that might impact casinos elsewhere.

There is a worry that this new ‘gaming paradise’ will increase problem gambling and become a target for organised crime.

I tend to think that the organised crime argument will see the opposite effect, but I’m no expert on Japan, although when it comes to problem gambling, that all depends on the rules put in place.

Interestingly, a person’s family can ask for a person to be banned from a casino if they are worried about them, which is an idea I really quite like.

Asking a serious gambling addict to self restrict is a bit like asking a hungry chocolate addict to save some for later, but if the people around the addict can step in on their behalf, that could well prevent a lot of harm.

It’s open to abuse of course, so the approach would have to be more nuanced, but I like the idea.

The other thing being implemented, is a set fee for every 24 hours spent in the casino of which a portion will go to gambling addiction organisations. This only amounts to about £36, so it won’t directly stop anyone from gambling, but it will fund clinics and such that can.

Japan First Casino

Lastly, you can see from the pictures that the ideas for the complex look incredible. It’s much more than just a casino, being built on its own artificial island and including hotels, shops, beaches, areas of nature, restaurants, an international conference hall, a theatre, and an exhibition centre.

And just look at the architecture! If it ends up looking as incredible as these images, it will be a casino complex to put the themed casinos of America and the ‘stick ’em in any building that’s empty’ casinos of the UK to shame.

They think 15,000 jobs will be created, and with the Japanese arm of MGM taking the reigns you can expect them to know how to make it a success.