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Japanese Government Intent On Bringing Forward Internet Gambling Bill Before Christmas

Gambling regulation globally is an ever changing picture, with governments and regulators worldwide increasingly juggling between the interests of those who favour liberalisation, and those who are concerned about the impact of more sensible gambling laws on vulnerable gamblers.

Different countries have developed their own approaches over the years, which has led to a confusing mashup of different approaches worldwide. In the US, for example, most online gambling remains illegal in practice, yet it’s interesting that the US is also home to some of the world’s most iconic casino resorts, in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, amongst others.

Even in the UK, often considered a model jurisdiction in terms of its outlook on gambling regulation and practice, is facing increasing calls from more illiberal quarters, forcing regulators to tighten up some of the existing guidance around gambling laws, particularly around the theme of advertising.

Today, it’s the turn of the Japanese, where efforts have been underway to introduce tighter restrictions on gambling. The logic behind the measures is to tackle the problems associated with gambling addiction, but the bill has yet to begin its maneuvers through the legislature.

Officials in Japan are now pressing for the gambling addiction legislation to be brought forward ahead of the Christmas break, in the latest restrictive measure to be applied to gambling in the jurisdiction.

The measures, which are supported by the governing coalition under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are being presented to legislators ahead of the festive shutdown, with legislators from the Liberal Democratic Party keen to drive the change agenda.

The news comes in the wake of plans that look set to legalise casino gambling in Japan for the first time. The Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill is expected to follow in the new year, as the government seeks to implement the proposals into national law.

A previous version of the so-called gambling addiction bill had been tabled for earlier in the year, but was axed following the announcement of the recent snap election. The Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill is viewed as an essential regulatory precursor to adopting the fresh approach to gambling more liberal approach to gambling resorts, but with legislative room for the year rapidly running out, there is now an increasing drive to press forward with measures ahead of the end of the year.

The bicameral Japanese parliament wraps up business for the year on December 9, and law makers will now have a fight on their hands to bring forward the relevant measures ahead of the close. With a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives the objective ahead of the shut down this week, it remains to be seen whether lawmakers can pull it off in the time available.

Japan has traditionally taken a restrictive approach to gambling, and is amongst a new wave of countries developing their gambling markets for their first time. However, some have expressed concern, and in particular questioned how gambling addiction might affect vulnerable individuals and their families in Japan.

While the issue is somewhat polarising between the different factions, the government in particular has one eye on the revenue generating potential of legal casino gambling resorts. Especially given the demand for a legitimate offline industry amongst players, there is impetus to get the legislation moving. However, without the safeguards to protect against problem gambling afforded by the IRI Bill, the government will be pressed to take any further steps forward.

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