The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry of Japan has tabled a proposal to strike down the restrictions on sports betting in the country. The move seems to be aimed at boosting advertising and broadcasting revenues as part of the Government’s efforts to boost the country’s sports sector. However, according to reports, the proposed measure is expected to face fierce opposition because of concerns that the liberalization of sports betting could lead to increased gambling addiction rates and match-fixing.
Koichi Hagiuda, the industry minister, said at a press conference that took part on June 7th that so far there were no moves that would immediately make the proposal a reality. As early as this month, the Sports Agency and the industry ministry are set to reconvene the Sports Development Council (SDC) for the first time in 5 years to discuss the possible relaxation of the sports betting ban.
Mr. Hagiuda explained that the discussions on the matter were set to be resumed, taking the changes that ongoing digitalization and the Covid-19 pandemic had brought into the global sports industry’s structure. The Government has not announced an exact date when it plans to start the discussions yet.
For the time being, gambling that is not publicly certified is banned on the territory of Japan. Some of the forms of gambling that are legal under special laws include horse race betting, track cycling betting, as well as sports lotteries.
Lifting Sports Betting Restrictions Could Bring Fresh Revenue to Japan’s Coffers
Several years ago, in 2016, the SDC set a goal to expand the country’s sports market by ¥9.5 trillion in the 10 years between 2015 and 2025, and the legalization of sports betting could help the Government do so. However, there have been some concerns that the legalization of in-play betting could lead to an increase in problem gambling in Japan, as well as match-fixing.
Currently, match-fixing and gambling are suspended under the rules of the Professional Baseball Agreement, which is why professional baseball in Japan has objected to the proposed market liberalization and distanced itself from the Toto sports lottery that the Japan Sports Council operates.
The proponents of the measure, on the other hand, have noted that the expansion would help the country generate fresh tax revenue that could be used to help the Government promote local sports or to cover the costs of various club activities at public junior high schools.
At the beginning of the week, Koji Murofushi, a member of the Sports Agency, received a proposal on a range of measures aimed at shifting the bodies that operate extracurricular club activities from Japanese schools to private clubs. He explained at the time that sports betting is still a grey area in Japan, which does not have a concrete design. Mr. Murofushi further noted that the Sports Agency did not have an intention to use sports betting revenue to cover the costs of the proposed reforms under which some school club activities have to be outsourced to private clubs.