With casinos on the cards, study shows Japan must first deal with its pachinko gambling addiction

As many as 900,000 people may be hooked to the pinball form of slot machine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 7:02am

As many as 900,000 Japanese people may be addicted to “pachinko” gambling or slot machines, according to a new study, raising concerns as the government continues to push forward with legalising casinos.

The nationwide survey of 9,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 79 was conducted by universities and support groups for people with addiction to pachinko – a form of pinball played on upright boards in vast halls and accompanied by flashing lights and loud music.

After identifying the portion of respondents who said pachinko had in some way affected their mental health, work, relationships or household finances, researchers extrapolated a figure of 900,000 for the entire Japanese population.

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“There has never been any research like this in the past so we never had any data before,” said Naoyuki Nishimura, founder of the Okinawa-based Pachinko Recovery Support Network NGO.

“Now we are aware of the scale of the problem we can perhaps start to draw up plans to better help people who want to stop playing. Although I am concerned what will happen when the first casinos open.”

Public opinion is already divided on legalising casinos as part of “integrated resorts”, with the government promising to hold public hearings in communities that are considering building new facilities.

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People attending one such hearing in Osaka earlier this month were fairly evenly divided between those who emphasise the economic benefits that it would bring to the city and those who worry about organised crime attempting to muscle in on the lucrative gambling sector, and others who fear rising gambling addiction.

As well as Osaka, the local governments in Tokyo, Okinawa and Yokohama are in talks with foreign or domestic developers to build integrated resorts, with the first venue likely to be ready to welcome its first gambler by 2023.