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HOME  > Past issues  > 2024 April 10 - 16  > Sports gambling is not fire on someone else’s shore
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2024 April 10 - 16 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Sports gambling is not fire on someone else’s shore

April 11, 2024

The 680 million yen reportedly owed by Mizuhara Ippei, an interpreter for Ohtani Shohei of the Dodgers of the U.S. MLB, is said to have been caused by illegal gambling. In the United States, the ban on sports betting was lifted in 2018. Until then, betting on sports was allowed only in some states under the “Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act” (PASPA). In 2018, however, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized PASPA to be illegal, leaving the authority to the states to decide whether to allow sports wagering.

Japan’s Penal Code prohibits gambling. Special laws allow, by exception, only horse racing, bicycle racing, boat racing, and sports promotion lotteries.

“I hope to have a bill on a new form of the sports promotion lottery ‘toto’ enacted next year.” Endo Toshiaki, chair of the Nippon Sports Policy Commission and an LDP member of the House of Representatives, said so at a meeting of the Nippon Sport Kaigi in January.

During the meeting, Endo said, “Baseball is what I want to do something about the most. They are hard-headed, but I’m told that they are becoming a little more positive about a baseball lottery.” He was explicit about his intent to submit a new lottery bill to next year’s ordinary session of the Diet.

The aim of new lotteries is to generate financial resources for club activities in local communities. The Japan Sports Agency last year launched a project to shift junior high school students’ holiday club activities from school to the community. It will be necessary to secure financial resources for private sports clubs to support students’ club activities.

Sports journalist Taniguchi Gentaro said, “It would be outrageous to use the proceeds from sports gambling to finance children’s club activities. It is the government that should provide the financial resources.” In addition, he said, “Dangerous moves are underway.”

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in June 2021 drew up a proposal indicating the “potential of sports betting” as one source of funding for community sports. The proposal claims that sports betting overseas has led to an increase in broadcasting rights revenues, and that the sports industry’s “earning power has further improved.” The proposal paints a rosy picture. The IT industry, for example, is in the background behind this proposal. They see additional sports lotteries as a business opportunity.

The LDP Research Commission for the Establishment of a Sports Oriented Nation in May 2021 also recommended allowing more sports gambling in Japan, “It would be beneficial to consider the possibility of utilizing sports gambling in Japan as well.” It is apparent that politicians, business leaders, and bureaucrats are working together to promote betting on sports games.

Last year, under the initiative of METI and the Japan Sports Agency, a meeting took place to promote the sports industry. Sports gambling was one of the topics discussed at the meeting. However, experts one after another expressed concern about lifting the ban on sports betting. Many said, “The risk of spot-fixing would increase dramatically. Harm or damage could be done to the players. Antisocial (aka. criminal) organizations will surely approach the players, offering bribes.”

Taniguchi pointed out, “The LDP and METI see sports as a tool for making money. Gambling distorts and destroys the fundamental spirit of sports. It is necessary for the general public to stop the move to legally expand sports gambling.”
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