Tokyo >> Families of gambling addicts will be able to block their kin from online horse betting under a new system created by the Japan Racing Association.
The association began accepting applications earlier this month from family members living with those clinically diagnosed with gambling disorders or suspected of struggling with its symptoms, based on spending habits.
Once accepted, the Japan Racing Association will suspend them from betting online.
The move is part of government efforts to curb gambling addiction as it prepares to debate a bill on the structure of so-called integrated resorts that include casinos, which it wants to open for the first time in hopes of boosting tourism and regional economies.
The government wants to see similar restrictions in place at racetracks and off-track betting booths starting in fall but it’s unclear how such measures can be executed.
It plans to expand online gambling restrictions based on applications submitted by family members to bicycle, motorbike and motorboat racing beginning in April.
An estimated 3.2 million Japanese have likely suffered from gambling addiction, according to a government survey of 4,685 people released in September. It said 0.8 percent of the population between 20 to 74 — about 700,000 people — were likely addicted at some point in the past year, with their average age being 46.5. An average of $515 was spent on gambling per month. Pachinko accounted for the most gambling money.
The racing association and the National Association of Racing, which oversees local horse races, have already installed a system to restrict online gambling for individuals who apply on their own behalf. Fourteen people have been banned from online betting.
Gambling is prohibited in principle in Japan, excluding horse racing and certain motor sports.
Pachinko is considered a kind of quasi-legal gambling, categorized as gaming on the basis of the indirect way players turn their winnings into money. Pachinko balls won at parlors can be exchanged for gifts, which in turn can be exchanged for cash at off-site booths.
Last year, the Diet passed a law to legalize casinos, opening the way for entertainment complexes that combine high-stakes gambling with hotels and other facilities. But legislation is still necessary to sort out details on regulation and tax rates, as well as social issues like compulsive gambling.
American casino operators like MGM Resorts International have shown an interest in building such resorts if selected as one of the preferred operators. Meanwhile, various prefectures and municipalities, including Hokkaido and the cities of Yokohama and Osaka, are competing to host one of the first legal gambling complexes in the country.