In this new regular feature in IAG to celebrate 16 years covering the Asian gaming and leisure industry, we look back at our cover story from exactly 10 years ago, titled “A yen for change,” to rediscover what was making the news in April 2011!
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Inside Asian Gaming team has long lamented the snail’s pace at which Japan’s road to casino development has crawled, and there is perhaps no better means of demonstrating this than by looking back to the cover story of our April 2011 issue.
The topic, of course, was Japan and the issue at hand the prospects of Japanese lawmakers giving the green light to casino gaming. Much like today, the primary argument in favor of legalizing casinos was to provide a much-needed boost to the economy, particularly in the wake of the tragic tsunami that devastated parts of Japan’s east coast and led to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. There was also the matter of Japan’s aging and shrinking population – a problem supporters of casinos still legitimately point to today.
However, one of the primary concerns at the time was pachinko, and more specifically the role it has played in Japanese society over many years.
Despite signs even a decade ago that the prevalence of pachinko was starting to fall, IAG pointed out at the time that this traditional Japanese game – although not officially classified as gambling – continued to shape Japan’s attitude towards all forms of gambling due to issues around problem gambling, minimal tax contributions and links to organized crime. All of these issues have since been raised by opponents of Japan’s casino and IR legislation.
Notably, however, there were also worries in 2011 that, due to pachinko’s long history and support from many “old school” politicians, the only way IRs would achieve legal status would be for similar legislation to be passed classifying pachinko as gambling and making it a legal industry under this new definition. What an interesting dynamic that would have added had it proved to be true!