There was a major frisson in the foreign financial press earlier in this Diet session over the submission of a bill legalizing casino gambling in Japan (Link). The excitement received a boost this past week as real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan announced a tie up with Fuji Media and construction giant Kajima for an Odaiba casino, pending passage of the legislation, which seemingly has been delayed. (Link)
It is understandable that the financial press would get all hopped up about these recent moves. Gambling is to finance what pornography is to art (and as we know a lot more folks take in pornography than take in art). As for putting a casino in Tokyo, those Orientals -- and once they have a passport and a plane ticket, they are all the same aren't they? -- they love their gambling, correct?
Stop. Right. Now.
Sure 100 members of the Diet are either going to the casino legalization meetings or sending their representatives. Sure, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is listed as an honorary chairman of the Diet group wanting to legalize casino gambling.
However, before betting the farm on moves purporting to lead to the construction and operation of casinos in Japan, think: you have billions of yen spend but can only spend it if the law is changed. With that as the initial condition, having 100 Diet members beating a path to your door represents a lousy turnout -- especially since you have hired local agents who are essentially giving away what is essentially free money. And think further: if you were a politician, and you wanted to maximize the amount of money you could extract from the wallets of an industry when there was zero chance of there being a political payoff, would you not want to have the prime minister as the headliner of your scheme?
And if that is not enough to hammer home how thoroughly the international gambling conglomerates are being played, read the first half of Tom Gill's recently published study of power boat gambling, the rationalization of which is the source of the peculiar title of this post (Link). Then take a walk around any Japanese city, looking for all the little plaques explaining how this or that public convenience was payed for by which form of what is ostensibly an illegal activity.
If the gambling moguls think they can go up against the horses, the boats, the bicycles, the motorcycles, pachinko, pachislot and the National Lottery, and the hundreds of thousands employed in these at best parasitic, at worst carnivorous, service providers, and the local governments who either profit from or do not want to talk about their ties to gambling that go back 60 years -- and if the gambling moguls think that by hiring lobbyists they are going to win a change in the Penal Code so that they compete against the deeply mendacious and yet deeply enracinated domestic providers of gambling opportunities, coming in as outsiders, on the further assumption that the National Police Agency will just let the casino operators jet in nouveau riche Chinese with their Singapore accounts filled with the cash siphoned off from their company's pension funds, the Triads and Chinese security services on their tails -- then the international gambling moguls deserve to have their pockets picked by the world's least competent pickpockets -- and I can tell you from experience, there is nothing sadder and less terrifying than a Tokyo pickpocket.
Then again, since I hate gambling in all its forms (I will, as a gentleman, wager the cost of a lunch on a political outcome--but then I wanted to have lunch with the person anyway) seeing Japanese politicians and Japanese lobbyists playing upon the hopes and narcissism of those whose ill-gained fortunes are derived from the playing upon the hopes and narcissism of others makes me smile.
Welcome to Japan.
Later - Sorry for all the typos. Got a little bit hot and bothered, it seems.