Group raises alarm about surge in young gambling addictions in Japan 

Jenny Ortiz 2 weeks ago
Group raises alarm about surge in young gambling addictions in Japan 

The Japanese nonprofit organization, the Society Concerned about Gambling Addiction, has raised alarms about a significant increase in gambling addiction among young individuals, attributed to the rise of online betting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation is urging the government to enhance regulations on online gambling to address this growing issue. 

The nonprofit group reports that the increase in online gambling correlates with the pandemic-induced shift to remote work, which has led more young people to engage in online betting. This trend has resulted in a surge in consultations regarding gambling addiction among the youth. 

While Japan maintains strict prohibitions on most forms of gambling, including casino activities, certain government-sanctioned betting on horse races, bicycle races, motorcycle races, and motorboat races are allowed. Pachinko and pachislot are also permitted. However, despite the illegality of engaging in online gambling through overseas casino websites, many individuals find ways to bypass these restrictions. 

Rising consultations and demographics 

A study by the Society analysed 479 cases in 2023 involving individuals with gambling addiction or their family members seeking counselling. Findings said 78 percent of those struggling with addiction were in their 20s and 30s, a 14-percentage point increase from 2019; consultations related to online betting, including sports wagers, rose to 20.3 percent of cases, a 16-point increase; 28 percent of cases involved motorboat races, an increase of 22.7 points, while consultations about bicycle races accounted for 18.2 percent, up by 15.5 points. 

Financial and legal implications 

The average debt incurred by gambling addicts in 2023 was JPY 8.55 million (€50,174). Additionally, 28.2 percent of the consultations involved illegal activities, such as borrowing from illicit lenders or stealing from family members or businesses, indicating a severe impact on both personal and family finances. 

Future concerns and government response 

The Society Concerned about Gambling Addiction cautions that the prevalence of gambling addiction among young people is likely to continue rising. They stress the urgent need for the government to strengthen regulations on online gambling to mitigate this issue. 

Japan’s recent approval of its first casino in Osaka, set to open in 2030 and developed by a consortium including MGM Resorts and Orix, further underscores the need for robust regulatory frameworks to address the potential increase in gambling-related problems. 

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