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Group alerts to surge in young gambling addictions in Japan

Japanese nonprofit organization the Society Concerned about Gambling Addiction has pointed out that the proliferation of online betting due to COVID-19 has led to a surge in young individuals developing gambling addiction.

These individuals now face a heightened risk of resorting to criminal activities to settle their mounting debts, says the Society, urging the government to promptly strengthen regulations on online gambling.

According to the group’s findings, reported by the local media outlet Asahi Shimbun, the surge in consultations concerning young individuals with gambling addiction coincides with the rise of online betting during the pandemic, which prompted many to work remotely from their computers.

The organization cautioned that the prevalence of young gambling addicts is likely to increase in the coming years due to this trend.

Japan strictly prohibits all forms of gambling, including casino activities, except for government-sanctioned betting on horse races, bicycle races, motorcycle races, and motorboat races. Pachinko and pachislot are also allowed.

Japan, Horse racing, Gambling addiction
Tokyo Racecourse

Furthermore, it is illegal for individuals in Japan to engage in online gambling through overseas casino websites, even if such platforms are legal in their respective jurisdictions. However, as experienced pachinko players are aware, there are methods to circumvent these regulations.

The society also indicated that the frequency of visits to illicit online betting platforms skyrocketed by over 100 times between 2018 and 2021 in the country. Government-regulated sports betting generates between 70 to 90 percent of its revenue through online wagering.

The survey analyzed 479 cases in which individuals with gambling addiction or their family members sought counseling from the Society in 2023.

Among these cases, 78 percent of the individuals struggling with addiction were in their 20s and 30s, marking a 14 percentage point increase from 2019, the year preceding the onset of the pandemic.

Consultations related to online betting, encompassing sports wagers, constituted 20.3 percent of the cases, showing a 16-point increase.

Regarding government-regulated gambling, 28 percent of the cases involved motorboat races, rising by 22.7 points, while consultations concerning bicycle races accounted for 18.2 percent, up by 15.5 points.

The study revealed that the average debt incurred by gambling addicts in 2023 was JPY 8.55 million ($54,500).

The society noted that 28.2 percent of the consultations pertained to illegal activities, such as borrowing money from illicit lenders or pilfering funds from family members or businesses.

Japan approved its first casino in Osaka last year, which will be developed by a consortium formed by the US-based MGM Resorts and the local corporation Orix. The Osaka casino is set to open in 2030.

Viviana Chan
Viviana Chan
Viviana Chan is an editor, interpreter, and journalist. With over a decade of experience, she writes in English, Chinese, and Portuguese. Viviana started her career in Macau-based newspapers, where she became passionate about the region's social, financial, and cultural development. Her writing focuses on the economy, emerging industries, gaming development, political affairs, and cross cultural-exchange in the business and cultural domains. She is avid for news and eager to discover and cover stories that generate public relevance.



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