Published: June 1, 2022

Japan PM says online casinos to remain illegal, promises further crackdowns

Japanese Prime Minister Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s has promised to crack down on the use of online casinos, reiterating that they remain a “gambling crime” and insisting illegal organizations will not be tolerated.

His comments, made at a Budget Committee meeting of the lower house of the Diet on 1 June, were in response to questions from Constitutional Democratic Party councilman Issei Yamagishi, who noted that inquiries to the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan regarding online casinos had increased from about 100 annually in 2014 to nearly 500 in 2020. He also said there are more than 2 million users of online casinos in Japan according to estimates, which is seen as particularly high considering that 5.06 million bet on horse racing online, 3.29 million on keirin and 1.17 million on boat racing.

Prime Minister Kishida said, “In the event a portion of the act of gambling is taking place within Japan, it constitutes a gambling crime. I understand there are cases in which arrests and criminal charges have been made related to online casinos. We cannot allow illegal organizations to expand.”

Asked which ministry, agency or minister was in charge of enforcement against online casinos, the Prime Minister replied, “There is not just one. Related ministries and agencies are each responding to the issue.”

Among the related topics broached by Yamagishi were the use of payment agents to deposit and withdraw funds, and gambling addiction – specifically initiatives included in the government’s Basic Plan to combat addiction.

Asked if this Basic Plan was sufficient, Kishida said, “The Basic Plan to combat gambling addiction focuses on countermeasures for addiction to be taken by operators in legal gambling. Online casinos are illegal and cracking down on illegal gambling is the entire point of the basic plan in my opinion.”

Yamagishi also criticized the government’s efforts to develop Japan’s first integrated resorts, claiming its inability to eliminate illegal online casinos meant they would be unable to prevent “societal threats” posed by IRs.

“IRs are not only casinos but also MICE and tourist centers,” the Prime Minister replied. “I will work with the related ministries and agencies to crack down on [online casinos]. One important issue is understanding the flow of capital and another is countermeasures for addiction.”

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