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Japan looks to limit games at future integrated resorts

By Harrison Sayers
Japanese law-makers have opened up about the Integrated Resorts implementation Bill and it doesn’t look good for the poker and sports betting industry, according to reports in the local press.

The first outlines announced on 31 July suggested that only games of pure chance would be allowed in the Integrated Resorts (IR), which threatened the future of poker along with Japanese favourite Mah-Jong and Shogi. Now the latest reports are suggesting that these games along with sports betting are most likely to be banned in the IR Bill.

When gambling was legalised in December last year, a poll showed public support at just 12% as reported by Japan’s national broadcaster NHK. This low level of support, as well as the influence of popular advocates such as Buddhist organisation and political pressure group Soka Gakkai, has left the Integrated Resorts Bill limited in its application.

The views on the gaming industry are very negative in Japan, in particular there are fears around the potential increase in crime which the government and locals assume will be fuelled by the industry.

However, there are some in Japan who have argued for the likes of poker. Masayoshi Oiwane, head of the Japan Casino School, told Mainichi newspaper: “Poker allows gamblers to feel a sense of superiority by defeating others in a game of wits. Poker is popular worldwide and can attract numerous customers. In such games, it’s clear who the winner or loser is and it’s easy to control the flow of money.”

Japan will be hoping to get the IR Bill right as it’s currently unpopular with the people and will be the framework that determines the level of the financial and tourist windfall that they had promised. Many investors will fear a heavily regulated bill might deter potential investors and gamblers from making the trip to the integrated resorts mooted at Osaka and Tokyo.

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