Dangerous proposal ignores many inevitable negative effects

If sports is made the subject of betting, it is inevitable that many harmful effects will follow. Introducing gambling that would hinder the healthy development of sports is totally unacceptable.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has drawn up a draft proposal to lift the ban on sports betting, which allows betting on the results of matches and in-play betting (betting on plays while a game is in progress).

Tech companies and other entities would purchase game data from leagues and clubs, then provide it to betting operators to calculate odds, according to the draft proposal. Baseball, soccer and basketball are assumed to be among the sports eligible for betting.

Although the government has claimed that no moves are underway to realize such a proposal, officials in charge from the ministry and related companies have already visited the United States, where sports betting has been legalized in some states, to exchange information with parties concerned.

The move is apparently aimed at attracting new fans and vitalizing the sports industry. However, it is extremely problematic.

First of all, there is a high risk of match-fixing. In Europe and the United States, there is no end to suspicions of match-fixing in soccer, tennis and other major sports, and authorities have launched investigations into some of these cases.

In Japan’s professional baseball world, match-fixing and betting on baseball are banned under the rules of the Nippon Professional Baseball Agreement. Baseball has also distanced itself from the Toto sports lottery operated by the Japan Sport Council.

The restrictions on match-fixing and betting on baseball were imposed in response to past gambling-related match-fixing scandals, including the “Black Fog” incident in which several players involved in such scandals were permanently banned from playing. The fact that gambling is a crime must not be taken lightly.

There is also concern about the impact of gambling addiction. It is estimated that 2.2% of people aged 18 to 74 are suspected of being addicted to gambling or having related symptoms. If in-play betting is allowed, there is fear of this figure growing even larger.

There is reportedly a proposal to use some of the revenue that would be generated from gambling as a financial resource for so-called reform aimed at partially shifting the initiative for school club activities from the schools themselves to sports clubs or private entities in local communities. As school club activities are part of educational activities, the costs should be covered primarily by public funds. It would be extremely unhealthy if club activities were to be run with funds collected from those who lose at gambling.

The Penal Code prohibits gambling. Public gambling, such as on horse and bicycle racing and the Toto lottery, is only exceptionally allowed by special laws. Disregarding the significance of the current laws and considering lifting the ban on sports betting in a short-sighted manner is unbelievable.

Sports inspire spectators and viewers perhaps because athletes, who have piled up long efforts, play hard for reasons beyond the framework of simply winning or losing.

It is unthinkable to imagine a scene in which children who are genuinely rooting for their favorite players and adults who are passionately involved in gambling are mixed at a sporting venue. Sports must not be polluted by gambling.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 9, 2022)