Japan To Mull Sports-Betting Expansion, Says Report

June 8, 2022
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The Japanese government is again considering expansion of the sports-betting market, with a ministerial proposal to be discussed in detail at a sports policy conference next month, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported on Tuesday.

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The Japanese government is again considering expansion of the sports-betting market, with a ministerial proposal to be discussed in detail at a sports policy conference next month, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported on Tuesday (June 7).

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Japan Sports Agency will convene industry, scholastic and government experts at the Japanese Sports Future Development Conference for the first time since 2017 to discuss the proposal, the report said.

The proposal seeks to revitalise sources of sports industry revenue via sports-betting contributions to broadcast fees and advertising, it said, with the conference to explore various means to triple the Japanese sports market from ¥5.5trn to ¥15trn ($113bn) by 2025.

The Yomiuri reports have triggered denials of knowledge of the development from top Cabinet officials.

METI’s minister Koichi Hagiuda denied his ministry has a role in the initiative when questioned by reporters on Tuesday.

“To the best of my knowledge, there is no proactive move on the part of the METI to bring about” a lifting of the ban on wider sports betting, he said.

Education and sports minister Shinsuke Suematsu also denied knowledge of the matter, saying he had “never discussed” sourcing education funding from sports betting, and that “there is no plan to present a proposal to lift the sports-betting ban” at next month’s conference.

However, the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Toshimitsu Motegi, said discussions of the proposal are under way, at least within the ranks of the LDP.

“It is vitally important that a solid mechanism be created and that the public gain a firm understanding” of the proposal, a separate Yomiuri report quoted Motegi as saying.

Members of the Komeito party, a conservative partner of the LDP, expressed caution, with party chairman Masatoshi Takeuchi sceptical that the gambling industry should fund educational programmes instead of the government.

Opposition parties were similarly cautious in response to the media reports, but only the Communist Party declared outright that the expansion of sports betting should not proceed.

At the Japan Sports Agency, commissioner and Olympic medalist Koji Murofushi told a press conference on Monday that the “instability” of sports betting may not conform with funding mechanisms for local sporting activities, including children’s sports.

Japan-based gaming analysts declined to immediately comment to VIXIO GamblingCompliance on the veracity of the Yomiuri reports, citing the need to gather more information.

The Financial Times reported in April 2021 that the LDP government led by then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had commenced secret discussions to legalise sports betting for football and baseball amid declining resistance to liberalisation because of the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on professional sporting codes.

It also reported that the government had commissioned market research company Dentsu to assess the legalisation of betting on the two sports, with government discussions starting after the Dentsu report was delivered in September 2020.

Sports betting in Japan enjoys legal exemptions for locally operated sporting competitions including motor boat racing, motorcycle racing, horseracing and cycling.

However, a large volume of sports betting takes place in the unlicensed online market, with Japan’s diverse range of affiliates providing channels to foreign gambling websites, overwhelmingly with impunity.

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