Canada, a Golden Standard for Healthy Gambling

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A Japanese delegation of health officials recently travelled to a centre for problem gambling in Canada, to learn the best practices in the area of gambling addiction and mental health. The Canadian Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare supports the health and wellbeing of the Windsor-Essex community, who have been affected by gambling as well as carries out research and educational sessions, which the Japanese delegation was able to benefit from. This is the latest measure in the series of moves by the government towards setting up a base for the gambling industry in Japan.

Changing policy in Japan

Less than a year ago, Japan passed the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill into law, a move viewed by many as the first step towards creating a Japanese casino industry. The Bill technically opens up the country to regulated casinos, however, it doesn’t give the green light on all casino related activities to everyone in Japan just yet.

While plans for three integrated casino resorts were already in the making at the time of the Bill, discussion of the regulations took place only in March this year. The results give an impression of a tightly regulated emerging industry. Advertising of the resorts, for example, is limited to international airport space and international ports, where international cruise ships dock, while gambling facilities in the resorts are not permitted to exceed 3% of the total floor space. Japanese citizens meanwhile, will be allowed to visit the casinos up to three times a week or ten times a month with an entrance fee of ¥6,000 (£41.2/€48.2/$54.4) each time they do so. All transactions of ¥1m and above will be signalled to the regulatory authorities.

Around the time of the IR Implementation Bill, we also saw Japan pass the Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures, a statute, which requires the central government to come up with a basic outline for gambling addiction policies. Admittedly, the incredibly high entrance fee is meant to discourage obsessive gambling. More research in this area is the logical next step for the Japanese government in order to be able to provide the most adequate protection for players and implement a healthy gambling policy properly, similarly to how online casinos in Canada do it.

So what was the Japanese delegation able to learn?

Windsor’s Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency provides free and confidential professional treatment services to individuals, their family members and friends affected by gambling, gaming, and/or problematic internet use. The centre offers three components, which include outpatient treatment, education/prevention, and research.

The Japanese health officials, who visited the centre were able to attend presentations about the centre’s operations and learn about the variety of programmes the centre offers, which include a 21-day long residential programme, individual counselling, group therapy, family workshops, aftercare services, and a programme specifically designed for individuals and families of adults over 55 years old.

The residential programme has been especially successful among individuals with problem gambling. During the 3 weeks long visit, they can learn practical things such as emotional regulation, understanding anger, change and goal setting, stress reduction, defence mechanisms, money management, and many more.

However, simply copying interventions out of their country of origin and pasting them into an entirely different culture will almost always result in disaster. Perhaps it is good then that the Japanese division also got the chance to compare attitudes towards gambling in the two respective countries. The most striking contrast reported lies in the willingness to open up about previous traumatic experiences, something relatively uncommon in Japan and an important issue to consider when developing similar programmes in the country.

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