Gambling addiction healthcare infrastructure lags far behind need

The debate over the IR legislation brought the issue of gambling addiction to public attention as never before, but the national healthcare infrastructure to deal with the issue lags far behind the need.

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun recently noted that while Ministry of Health estimates suggest that there are about 700,000 problem gamblers in Japan, there are only about five healthcare facilities nationally that specialize in gambling addiction recovery.

Beyond these specialized facilities, of course, there are also dozens of self-help groups and less professional recovery programs, but evidence suggests that most people suffering from this affliction do not seek help or attempt to deal with it within their families.

The Basic Law on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures was passed on July 6 by the ruling coalition and some opposition parties, but in its current state this legislation is little more than a basic outline of a policy and a statement of intention to grapple with the problem.

To many observers’ surprise, the government’s IR Implementation Act made no specific provision for funding anti-addiction policies, though once again there have been many statements by the government that they intend to take the issue seriously.