Japan Questions Moral Suitability of Pachinko at Casinos

Japan Questions Moral Suitability of Pachinko at Casinos

Japan’s lawmakers are currently discussing the finer points of the country’s proposed Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill, and all being well the piece of legislation should be passed in time for the first casino resort to open for business in 2024.

While much about the bill has been agreed upon by lawmakers in Japan’s bicameral legislature (The National Diet), one topic that is currently causing a great deal of debate realtes to the game of pachinko. Some politicians have been arguing that pachinko should be excluded from the country’s future casino industry, with one politician firmly in the nay camp being Takashi Takai, a lawmaker from the Lower House, who has said that the industry in its present form should not be considered morally fit for such a purpose.

Addictive Nature of Pachinko

Pachinko parlors are popular all over Japan, and are filled with colorful, noisy machines looking like a cross between a slot and a pinball machine. Players are subsequently tasked with capturing small steel balls which they can then later exchange for tickets. This in turn has allowed pachinko to escape the official classification of gambling, even though the tickets awarded can subsequently be exchanged for money elsewhere.

Following Japan’s acceptance of casino gambling, however, lawmakers have been forced to examine in greater detail the current state of the industry, and in particular the highly addictive nature of pachinko games. A number of measures have since been approved to tackle the problem, including last year the government slashing the maximum payouts on the machines, as well as their overall payback. According to experts, this is intended to diminish the gambling element of the game, and strangle its overall appeal to consumers.

Early indications appear to show that the government’s directive is bearing fruit, too, as in 2017 a total of 420 pachinko cafes, or one in every 25, were forced out of business, while 177 pachinko operators, or 5% of the industry, went bankrupt. In addition, their popularity has also likely been hit by a growing disinterest emanating from millennials.

Gambling Addiction Bill

A couple of weeks ago, Japan’s House of Representatives passed a Gambling Addiction Bill designed to address social gambling concerns that may result from the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill being adopted. The bill is now awaiting a similarly positive vote in the upper House of Councillors.

The piece of legislation is seen as essential in ensuring cases of problem gambling are kept to a minimum after the first casinos open, and that anyone who does experience addiction will be able to receive all the treatment that they may need. The measures proposed include providing social welfare support for addicts, in addition to the establishment of special medical facilities for sufferers.

This is of particular concern for politicians as according to the results of a survey released by the Health Ministry last October, 3.6% of the Japan’s citizens, or 3.2 million people, are addicted to at least one types of gambling game.

Pachinko Tampering Scandal

Meanwhile, Takashi Takai from the Constitution Democratic Party, has tried to strengthen his argument to have the pachinko industry strictly monitored and possibly excluded from a future casino industry by citing a scandal that erupted in 2015 and caused widespread consternation. It related to malfeasant practices being used by pachinko manufacturers, and as Takai explains:

“Considering that there was a major tampering case by pachinko makers from a mere three years ago, I believe we must take a strict view towards their participation in the casino industry. Also, the National Public Safety Commission, as well as the prefectural public safety commissions, have proven themselves unable to prevent large-scale tampering by the pachinko makers and therefore it is inappropriate to have them supervise the casino business.”

Considering the pachinko market’s ongoing decline, the tighter regulatory controls currently being proposed by Takai, and the game’s potential exclusion from casinos in the future is likely to deliver yet another heavy blow to the already ailing industry.