Developing fair standards for Japan’s new gaming industry

The Japan Institution of Gaming Standards (JIGS) was launched last year as a general incorporated association to discuss rules for Japanese casino gambling, formulate guidelines for gaming equipment, and to conduct multifaceted research from an independent and impartial position.

In an exclusive interview with Asia Gaming Brief, JIGS Executive Director Hidetaka Saeki explains, “Japan needs to develop its own rules and standards for gaming. The issue of controlling gaming standards cannot be totally entrusted to foreign entities.”

The IR implementation Bill, however, leaves most issues about regulation unspecified, including such fundamental matters as decisions about the institutions and mechanisms through which the five-member Casino Management Board will exercise, in a practical sense, its regulatory power over casino operators.

For example, it is possible, Saeki believes, that the Casino Management Board might aim to directly control all casino regulatory issues directly through its own staff, or, alternatively, it might do as the National Public Safety Commission has done with the pachinko industry and entrust some matters to an organization similar to the Security Communications Association (Hotsukyo).

There is, at present, a distinct lack of expertise within the Japanese government bureaucracy about the gaming industry, and this is an obvious point of concern going forward.

JIGS is encouraging the central government to think more carefully about which kinds of institutions would be best suited for the regulatory control of casinos. They are also beginning to establish a regulatory agenda for when the governing institutions are in place.

Furthermore, JIGS aims to play an important role for gaming machine companies. The development of clear rules and standards will add a degree of predictability in regulation that leaves these companies freer to develop their business strategies with confidence. They can be assured that standards are being developed impartially, and not designed to favor the interests of one company or operator over another.

Saeki sees it as an open question how JIGS might develop in the future. He himself is a former government bureaucrat. It remains to be seen if JIGS will remain an entirely private-sector organization, or if it will be drafted by the government in some fashion to help the authorities regulate the casino industry in the public interest.