The Japanese government has announced that they will be asking operators of pachinko parlors and horse racetracks to start using facial recognition technology, in an attempt to prevent problem gamblers from being able to gamble.
Japan – which has battled with an unusually high number of problem gamblers over the past few years – is looking to bring in the changes as part of a wider effort to clamp down on problem gambling in the nation. While the legalization of casinos by the government (just a few years back) has – largely – been seen as a positive move, it has left the government a little helpless when coping with problem gamblers.
The facial recognition plan – which is part of a national gambling addict register – will allow those struggling with gambling addictions to upload photos of themselves. It will also allow friends and family members to upload photos to the database – though it’s not yet clear what kind of checks will be put in place here to ensure that the system cannot be abused.
While the scheme is still having its technical details worked out, the government are aiming to bring it in during the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in March 2020.
Gambling Counter Measures
Alongside trialling the new facial recognition technology, the Japanese government is looking at a number of other ways of controlling and curbing problem gambling. One of the first steps they’re going to be taking to achieve this, is to remove ATMs from all casinos. This decision was made following feedback from the general public.
Another new measure will allow problem gamblers being able to self-set a maximum stake on their gambling activities. This will – at launch – be limited to do online boat racing and horse racing – though it may well extend to other betting activities if it proves successful.
Advertising is another area which the government is looking to clamp down upon. Already, there exist plans that allow casinos to only advertise their services in certain parts of the country (mainly in the international terminals of airports), and it’s likely we’ll see the government become even harsher with these advertising guidelines, especially as problem gambling seems to be on the rise.
Japan’s welfare ministry will also open special consultation offices in some of the country’s major cities. These offices will deal – primarily – with helping those negatively affected by gambling, although they are also expected to carry out studies on the pros and cons of gambling in society.
Finally, there’s also calls on the Japanese education system to better-equip youngsters to deal with gambling problems. Underage gambling isn’t yet a big problem in Japan, but nonetheless, the National Police Agency have been seen to be taking a heavy-handed approach to operators who do offer gambling services to underage bettors.
Japan’s Gambling Scene is Evolving
Japan was – until recently – took a relatively conservative approach towards gambling, and there was generally a negative view towards gambling throughout the country. At the end of 2016, however – after almost two decades of conversation – the country looked to be taking a more liberal approach to gambling, and casinos were finally made legal.
Fast-forward to the end of 2018, and the Japanese government decided to approve the creation of three casino resorts, throughout the country. Potential operators are still ‘bidding’ on these licenses, and it’s not yet clear who the government is going to grant them to. However, it looks likely that Osaka will be one of the cities which receives a license, and plans have already been drawn up to place a casino on over 60-hectares of land, on nearby Yumeshima Island.
How the Japanese government manages to deal with the – almost guaranteed – increase in problem gamblers as these resorts begin to open remains to be seen. Some are calling the proposed facial recognition measures a positive step in the right direction, while other say they’re borderlining on the kind of society that Orwell warned us of, back in 1984. Still, at least the government are doing something – whether it works or not… well, that’s a different question altogether.