Japan is pushing ahead with plans to form a casino oversight body, even as local residents continue to view integrated resorts (IR) with trepidation.
On Friday, Japan’s government announced that it would establish a casino management committee by January 7, 2020. The committee will have two main areas of focus; supervising the activities of IR operators and mitigating the potential social harms that could accompany the long-awaited introduction of casino gambling to Japan.
The committee, whose five members will serve five-year terms, will act as an independent agency under the Cabinet Office and will reportedly be allowed a staff of 100. The government’s nominees for this committee will require parliamentary approval, with candidates’ names expected to be submitted during the current extraordinary session of the Diet.
The government’s glacial progress toward developing its casino plans mean the criteria for identifying the host cities for the maximum three eligible IRs have yet to be established. There’s been no shortage of drama on this front, as would-be casino licensees jockey for position in favorable locations while cities looking to land themselves an IR partner try not to act too desperate.
Japanese mayors may be keen to snag their share of the IR billions but Japan’s citizens appear far less convinced of the long-term benefits of the resorts. Surveys have shown strong majorities in some of Japan’s major cities don’t want casinos springing up in their back yards.
A new Jiji opinion poll conducted earlier this month showed 57.9% of respondents were opposed to the introduction of legal casino gambling while only 26.6% were in favor. Even among those who were in favor of the concept of IRs, 29% expressed opposition to having a casino in their hometown.
Japan already has significant issues with problem gambling, despite legal gambling options being limited to lotteries, race betting and pachinko (although the latter’s real-money gambling component isn’t technically legal). In April, the government introduced new measures to reduce problem gambling issues, including removing cash machines at pachinko halls and racetracks.