The coalition government of Japan, which is under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is hell-bent on getting the National Diet to pass the proposed Integrated Resorts (IR) bill this session.
It is rumored that the prime minister is the main force behind the push to have this bill passed. However, the bill has not earned the complete trust of the public and there is a large number of people across Japan who still have valid concerns about legalizing casinos.
In one of its editorials, Asahi Shimbun, a popular daily newspaper in Japan, expressed that the concerns about gambling addiction should be factored into the bill before it is passed by the Diet. This comes as coalition partners Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, as well as the Japan Innovation Party, forwarded a complementary bill in the Lower House to address the same issue.
Suspected foul play
The editorial, however, dismissed this move as a tactical ploy that aims to get the IR bill passed without the necessary reviews. It noted that the ruling alliance had, on many occasions, strongly advocated for the immediate passage and implementation of the bill as early as May 22.
The ruling alliance should not use the powers at its disposal to force its way. Hiroshi Moriyama, Diet affairs committee leader, has, however, stressed that the Diet will consider the concerns raised about gambling addiction before passing the bill. These comments come amid a heated public debate on the matter. It could also mean the government will first need to determine the effectiveness of the bill on the general public before it is passed.
A divided house
In an unexpected turn of events, opposition also seems to be coming from within the ruling coalition. Kameito has not been steady with its approach to the bill. The junior party is apparently skeptical about it.
In fact, the party went a step further and allowed its members to make individual decisions based on their judgment and not support it collectively as it had done in the past. Natsuo Yamaguchi, the president of Komeito, voted against it.
Nonetheless, many members of the coalition are firmly in support of passing the bill before the session ends for the year. The support, however, is largely viewed as in their own self-interests. There have been concerns that if the bill is passed, the performance of the ruling party could be negatively affected. This explains the rush to get everything done.
The inclusion of the concerns on gambling addiction will require local and central governments to set up medical facilities to treat and guide addicts back into society through rehabilitation. A committee made up of medical experts and close family members of the victims will be formed to make sure that the rehabilitation programs are not only conducted professionally but also consider the personal requirements of the victims, something only family members may understand.
However, there are concerns that the envisioned systems may not meet the expectations or work at all. There are also concerns on whether there are enough medical experts who could sufficiently cover all the victims if casinos were legalized. Concerns about the availability of facilities and equipment needed to carry out these exercises have also been raised.
Currently, there are an estimated 700,000 people suffering from gambling addiction in Japan. The number is quite high and the deliberations to legalize casinos is only making it worse. As a result, proper rehabilitation programs accompanied by adequate resources must be put in place. Anybody can become addicted to gambling, and when it’s legalized, it’s a lot easier.
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