The government is writing its Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill to set rules for the operation of casinos, but it is unlikely to bring any fundamental solution to the problem of gambling addiction.

The bill's basic policy, recently presented to the ruling coalition, causes us grave concern for its inadequate measures for dealing with gambling addiction.

According to the bill, casino visits by Japanese citizens, as well as foreign nationals residing in Japan, are to be limited to "three times within a period of seven consecutive days" and "10 times within a period of 28 consecutive days." The admission fee is 2,000 yen per visit.

But three visits within a week are quite a few, and we doubt the 2,000 yen charge will serve as a deterrent.

In Singapore and South Korea, casino visits are limited, respectively, to "eight times" and "15 times" per month. Japan's limit of "10 times" looks suspiciously like the government just picked a number between eight and 15.

Where did Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stated policy of "coming up with the strictest regulations in the world" go?

Some pro-casino Liberal Democratic Party legislators say the bill is "too strict." We cannot possibly comprehend that. Even if foreign tourists are seen as prime casino customers, this doesn't stop Japanese citizens from visiting casinos whenever they want.

The government must recognize the critical importance of determining what measures should be taken to prevent their excessive visits.

We are also concerned about the function of a "casino management committee" to be established as an external bureau of the Cabinet Office.

The committee is to be tasked with overseeing the appropriate operation of casinos and checking for ties between casino operators and organized crime. If there are legal violations, the committee will issue business improvement orders.

But will this new organization be capable of handling all these tasks that would normally warrant the establishment of a new government ministry or agency? Too many operational details have yet to be examined and acted on, including seeking the cooperation of law enforcement agencies and selecting committee members.

With respect to IR development, the prefectural and municipal governments of Osaka, which are bidding for the 2025 Expo, have singled out an artificial island as a prospective casino site. Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui, leader of the Japan Innovation Party, fully supports this proposal.

Other local administrative entities interested in setting up integrated resorts include the prefectural governments of Nagasaki and Wakayama.

It has been pointed out, however, that U.S. and other foreign operators entering into the scene may cause a drain of assets of Japanese citizens.

Foreign visitors to Japan topped 28 million last year and spent 4 trillion yen ($37.32 billion) and there were no casinos, needless to say.

What sort of policy, exactly, is needed now to further enliven the tourist industry? Every local government should hold townhall-style meetings with residents to get their input, and stop and think for a while.

Separate from the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill, the ruling coalition has proposed to the Diet a bill to prevent and fight gambling addiction that can lead to massive debts being run up and homes being wrecked. And since opposition parties have also proposed similar bills, we believe it makes much more sense now to deliberate thoroughly on them before proceeding with the government's IR bill.

According to the health ministry, Japan already has an estimated 7 million people who are suspected of gambling addiction, including that to pachinko.

The government must look squarely at this reality, and think and act accordingly.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 28