Health insurance companies should bear the costs of gambling addiction therapies

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The Japanese Ministry of Health decided in the middle of this month that the costs of gambling addiction therapies in the future should be covered by the country's health insurance companies.

With regard to the current liberalization of the land-based gaming sector, the topic of pathological gaming is increasingly becoming a political focus. Especially since the first three major casino complexes, so-called Integrated Resorts, are to be built in Japan, the concern for player protection is growing.

Game addiction high on the political agenda

Japan's ongoing casino projects have caused a stir in the media in recent months. In the meantime, displeasure towards future casinos is growing among the population, fueled by a current bribery scandal involving Minister Tsukasa Akimoto and the constant warnings from gambling addiction experts.

But the country is sticking to its plans and potential licensees from abroad are lining up.

In order to appease gambling critics and the general public, an increased focus should now be placed on player protection as well as prevention and treatment of gambling addiction.

According to a study by the Japanese government in 2007, around 3.2 million Japanese have problematic gaming behavior. At least 700,000 of them could be classified as addicted to gambling. The greatest addiction potential seems to come from the game “Pachinko”, which is a mixture of a gaming machine and an arcade game.

Despite the high number of addicts to games, only a few people go to appropriate therapy. One reason for this may be that the treatments had to be financed out of one's own pocket.

In the future, however, the country's health insurance companies will cover the therapy costs. In addition, each of the 47 prefectures is to offer a gambling addiction clinic. At present there are only auxiliary facilities in 35 prefectures.

Only a fraction seek help

According to the Ministry of Health, a total of 2,019 people went into addiction therapy in 2014.

In 2017, this number had already increased to 3,499 people. However, this remains a fraction of those actually affected.

Susumu Higuchi, head of the Kurihama addiction clinic, explains:

Game addicts must join a long-term history program. There are many people who have not sought help. It is important that they go to therapy so that the number of patients is kept within limits.

Since problem gamblers and addicts in particular often have to struggle with money problems and debt, it could have been all the more difficult for this group to finance therapy themselves.

The ministry hopes that in future more people will have the courage to get professional help if it is financed by the health insurance companies.

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