Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, December 16, 2016



Around the world, nations are lifting bans on once feared activities. In November, recreational marijuana became legal in seven US states. Alcohol can be now be purchased in supermarkets in Egypt and the U.A.E. And this week, the Japanese Parliament voted to lift a century-old ban on gambling. It makes you wonder. Soon, prostitution will be unionized and cocaine will be sold at football games.

Let's look at the changes in the staunchly conservative and traditional nation of Japan. Recently, numerous factors have the population worried about their financial future: A slumping auto industry.  An aging workforce. Fierce competition within Asia. Legislators knew they needed to find new ways to raise revenue. So members of parliament decided their constituents would be happy with the projected tax income gained from opening once-feared casinos across the country. NOTE: Twelve MPs did walk out in protest.

The truth is Japan already allows some forms of gambling. For example, wagering on horse racing is legal and the country does have a nationwide lottery. And then there are the Pachinko Parlors. This pinball based game involves hundreds of pin pong balls that noisily fall into winning and losing slots. Although technically a form of gambling, it somehow falls into a grey area of acceptance.

But let's face it: None of these petty industries will ever compare to the massive, Vegas-style casinos Japan is planning to open. The hope is to lure tourists away from the new wagering meccas of Macau and Singapore. For years, Japan has watched in envy as billions of tax dollars go to rivals, while they were shut out of the fun due to some outdated laws. 

In summary, Japan is currently attempting to re-brand the international image of the nation. Legalizing gambling fits right into the plan. With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, Tokyo wants to be seen as hip, fun and current. Not stodgy and dull. More like Dubai and less like Seoul. But we can hear the defining silence of Japan's elderly populace wondering what happened to their protected paradise. Someone needs to tell them that, in the year 2016, economic gain trumps traditional values. In short, if money can be made, no one cares about negative effects on society.

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