Problem gambling: How Japan could actually become the next Las Vegas

Abstract

Although with each passing day it appears less likely that integrated resorts with legalized gaming will become part of the Tokyo landscape in time for the city’s hosting of the summer Olympics in 20201, there is still substantial international interest in whether Japan will implement a regulatory system to oversee casino-style gaming.

In 2001, Macau opened its doors for outside companies to conduct casino gaming operations as part of its modernized gaming regulatory system. At that time, it was believed that Macau would become the next Las Vegas. Just a few years after the new resorts opened, many operated by Las Vegas casino company powerhouses, Macau surpassed Las Vegas as the “gambling center” at one point. With tighter restrictions and crackdowns on corruption, Macau has since experienced declines in gaming revenue.

When other countries across Asia have either contemplated or adopted gaming regulatory systems, it is often believed that they could become the “next Las Vegas.” When Singapore opened its two integrated resort properties in 2010 as a means to increase tourism, there were claims that the country would become the next Las Vegas, despite the restriction that Singapore residents are required to pay a S$100 per day levy for access to the casino.

Many believe that if South Korea opens gambling to residents at the country’s newest facilities that were recently authorized as part of an initiative to expand integrated resorts with casino gaming, rather than limiting access to foreigners, the country could be on par to becoming the “next Las Vegas.”

With all of these new gaming markets vying to become the “next Las Vegas,” the opportunity for Japan to develop integrated resorts in Tokyo and Osaka would not only serve tourists visiting the country during the Olympics, but also attract visitors from China who are unable to gamble in Macau casinos.

It is generally known that there is plenty of unregulated gaming currently taking place in Japan. Nonetheless, much of the concern from some Japanese government officials and citizens is that casino gaming will increase the already high rates of problem gambling and result in devastating effects on persons struggling with gambling addiction.

In contemplating whether Japan should legalize integrated resorts with casino gaming to become the “next Las Vegas,” the country can actually look to Las Vegas and similar regulated gaming markets as a model for confronting problem gambling and implementing measures to help fund education, treatment, and programs.

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