The gold standard of land-based gambling is without a doubt being awarded a license to own and operate an integrated resort (IR). This is particularly true in Japan as the Integrated Resort Promotion Act was only approved in 2016 and the Integrated Resorts Implementation Act two years later in 2018.
Yet even with final IR legislation being in place for nearly three years, no casino gaming operator has received the green light to begin development. This despite eager supporters of Japan’s burgeoning gambling industry proposing investments of up to $10 billion!
Japanese Gambling’s New Oni
The road to gaining approval for the development of integrated resorts in Japan has been a tumultuous one filled with allegations of corruption, media scrutiny, and the challenges presented by the recent pandemic.
However, it was believed that 2021 would be the year that IR received its fair dues, the necessary first steps in cementing a roadmap for a Yokohama IR development. That is until Takeharu Yamanaka, a 48-year-old professor at the Yokohama City University announced his candidacy for the August 22nd Yokohama mayoral election.
Yamanaka is a respected professor with a history of specialisation in public health and medical statistics, which includes developing countermeasures to eradicate the Covid-19 virus.
When questioned about his motives his answer was simple. As someone who sees the real-world implications of medical statistics, he feels that the proposed IR development will do more harm than good to the people and economy of Japan.
He listed gambling harms, declining educational standards and the impact of overly gambling orientated advertising as the drivers behind his decision to run an anti-IR mayoral campaign.
A Question of Posturing
One question that has been raised by Yamanaka’s announcement is whether being anti-IR is simply the best platform to run on in Yokohama at this point. The reason for this is that in recent months several mayoral hopefuls, none of whom had any real presence in the race before this, are now all running on the same anti-IR platform.
Yet the reality is that gambling in Japan is immensely popular, regardless of whether a casino hotel and resort complex is ever built.
Pachinko machines and gaming halls are a common sight across Japan, and despite the cultural mask of being a fun game the beads that are won while playing are sold for real money at third-party vendors located around the corner from any Pachinko parlour.
Analysts place the gross gaming revenue (GGR) of Japan’s “fun” pachinko industry to be on par with the GGR generated that of the entire Macau IR sector. Not only that but the Japan Racing Association generates betting revenues in excess of $25 billion per year.
Running a campaign within Japan on a platform of being anti-gambling or citing gambling harm as a “new risk” to the populace is objectively false campaigning.