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Japanese Gamblers Flock to Pachinko Parlours, Undermining Coronavirus Restrictions

April 25, 2020 | Gaming

JAPAN  – Japan’s Pachinko parlours already operate in a legal grey area, skirting anti-gambling laws by giving winners prizes that they can exchange for cash off the premises

However, the South China Post report lines outside Tokyo’s pachinko parlours show the limits of Japan’s ability to enforce social distancing, just as the country heads into a series of holidays that could be key to its attempts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Pachinko, a US$192 billion industry that lures gamblers with pinball-like machines, has come under scrutiny since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures two weeks ago. As virus cases continued to climb in the country, topping 11,100 as of Tuesday, the emergency was extended nationwide.

While many non-essential businesses have voluntarily shut or cut hours in accordance with local government requests, there are no penalties for failure to comply and some pachinko parlours have remained open. Concerns have grown as gamblers risk spreading the virus by travelling in search of places to play.

The issue is coming to a head as Japan braces for Golden Week, a series of public holidays from late April to early May that are among the most popular times to travel. The state of emergency is currently set to end May 6, though an extension is possible.

Total sales for the Pachinko industry amounted to about 20.7 trillion yen (US$192 billion) in 2018, according to a website operated by Daikoku Denko using data from Japan Productivity Centre.

According to SCP Akiko Oishi, a former Osaka bureaucrat who is preparing to run in the next general election said her conversations with business owners refusing to close show they were mostly doing so to avoid having to fold completely.

The only way to ensure they close without putting them out of business is for the government to provide a lot of money,” she said in an email to SCP. “There’s no other way out.”

SOURCE: South China Post.

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