Japan to Start Using Facial Recognition to Stop Addicts Gambling

Osaka's tourist district at night
Japan is preparing to implement some innovative measures to curb problem gambling in the country

30-second summary:

  • Japan has rising levels of problem gambling
  • A number of innovative measures are being proposed by the government to curb this trend
  • Facial recognition technology will be introduced at gambling facilities to refuse entry to problem gamblers
  • Japan is expanding its presence in the gambling space

Innovative facial recognition move

The Japanese government is looking into asking operators of pachinko parlors and horse tracks to start using facial recognition technology. This would allow them to refuse entry to those struggling with a gambling addiction.

This is one component of a new plan to curb the rising number of gambling addicts in the country. Since the government first legalized casinos a few years ago, it has been committed to introducing new policies that will help combat the uptick in gambling problems.

Those struggling with a gambling addiction, or their friends or family, can put themselves on a register of gambling addicts. This would restrict them from entering gambling establishments. Facial recognition technology would identify these people if they try to enter one of these facilities and gamble.

This program will come into effect at some stage during the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in March 2020.

Many new measures

The government is also looking at getting rid of ATM cash machines at casinos, following public feedback on this proposal.

A new system will come into play during the 2020 fiscal year that would see gambling addicts being able to impose a maximum limit on their stakes on online boat racing and horse racing platforms. This will also apply to speedboat racing and cycle racing.

The gambling sector is also facing stricter advertising guidelines. There already are plans to allow casinos only to advertise in a few areas in the country, such as in the international terminals of the country’s airports. The restriction is aimed at curbing the influence advertisers have on potential gamblers.

The welfare ministry will open new consultation offices in major cities, focusing on gambling addiction across the country. During the 2020 fiscal year, a government survey will examine issues connected to gambling addiction, such as crime, abuse, poverty, suicide, and debt.

There are also calls to have more education in schools about the problems associated with gambling. And there will be a widespread clampdown by the National Police Agency on illegal forms of gambling, which are rife.

These new measures set to come into practice in April and they will be reviewied every three years.

Changing gambling scene in Japan

For decades, Japan was very conservative on gambling, and there was a strong anti-gambling culture. However, towards the close of 2016, following almost 15 years of debate on the issues, casinos became legal.

Then at the end of the 2018 legislative session, the government approved the development of three resort casinos. These licenses are still up for grabs, with the three cities yet to be chosen.

It would be an extremely lucrative move, and would see Japan become a major hub for gambling in Southeast Asia.

Each of these casino resorts would cost around $10bn to develop, but the operators could expect annual revenues also in that ballpark. Almost all of the major global casino companies are vying to gain one of these licenses. One company that is adamant on obtaining a license is MGM Resorts.

Osaka a likely candidate

Osaka seems by far the likeliest city to get one of the three licenses and MGM Resorts is banking on this being the case. It has now opened an office in the city and is trying to put itself in the best position to be chosen for this license.

If Osaka does get one of the licenses, it likely would be in early 2020 when it decides on the operator. Osaka is playing host to the World Expo in 2025, so it would hope to have a casino resort open by then.

Rough plans are already in place to develop a resort casino in Osaka. The site would be on 60 hectares of land on Yumeshima Island.

There would need to be enough space for a gathering of 6,000 people and over 100,000 square meters of hotel accommodation. The cost would be more than $8.5bn and it would be open in 2024.

The casino would aim to attract 25m visitors annually, of which 19m would be non-gamblers. In comparison, Macau as a whole had 36m visitors during 2018.