Casino’s in Japan: The English Problem

These days, there’s been a flurry of mixed reviews about Japan’s casino law, which will allow up to three casino resorts to be built in Japan. There seem to be a lot of people harboring negative feelings about this news, worrying about gambling addictions, strangers making areas unsafe, and the risk of money laundering.

Incidentally, I was raised in a casino household. My father ran a casino in Spain, and has years and years of experience working the tables and other floor positions.

In Japan now there are rumors about whether an IR (integrated resort) will be developed in Tokyo or Osaka, but recently most have come to think it’ll be in Osaka.

In the midst of this, I’ve heard casino schools to train staff are popping up all over the place.

Obviously the students of those schools will be Japanese; but if there is a casino built in Japan, we can anticipate at least 50% of the customers will be foreigners.

You’re probably aware that many of those foreigners will be people seriously playing to win.

I want to explain just how important communication is between management and those customers.

1. Dealers and floor staff WILL need English.

For example, for someone who deliberately goes to an overseas casino in Japan to spend their money, what language do you think the dealer needs to give instructions in?

Clearly: English.

The customers have to be able to understand the dealers, but there are no Japanese people who can accommodate this, even if they scored a 990 on the TOEIC test and went to a casino school.

No foreign customer, who’s come a long way to gamble big, is going to be understanding about the  broken English of a dealer who doesn’t understand the nuances of what they’re saying.

I can easily imagine a fight breaking out, like you’d see in a movie.

Therefore, casinos will have to hire foreign employees.

Training schools for Japanese people are all well and good, but how well can they train their English ability there? At a Japanese casino, where both technical terminology and natural English is required, subpar language skills aren’t going to cut it; because they’re up against foreigners who’ve come to gamble.

Gathering foreigners with experience in casinos (or the gambling world) is the first priority.

2. People who spend big money at casinos leave it at the casino.

A long time ago, casinos could decide their own rules to a certain extent, but these days they’re under strict supervision.

There will be a lot of supervisors and security cameras watched carefully by police with specialized training.

I’m sure Japan will also have to follow these sorts of rules.

One of the reasons they need to be so strict is that overseas, people who gamble large amounts of money at the casino leave it at the casino. For example, customers might deposit 100,000,000 yen at the casino and gamble 10,000,000 of it the next time they come.

That’s the norm outside of Japan.

There are many reasons for this. If someone won 500,000,000 yen and carried that all back with them, they’d be immediately targeted for all sorts of crimes, so it’s very common to leave money at the casino and then use it later.

This is normal overseas. If Japan uses the same system, it can’t be handled with broken English.

That would undoubtedly cause problems. The casino would lose trust, and I could easily see the IR becoming little more than a vacant lot.

The framework of the IR is important, but we have to think about how to manage it after the fact as well.

Right now, some might say it’s too early to have this conversation, as who’s going to be working on this has yet to be decided; but my point is this: Casino schools are all well and fine, but as stated above, running a casino will be very difficult unless least half of the floor staff is foreign.

Simply because Japanese people cannot speak English.

Handling problem customers at a casino is on an entirely different level from handling them at a hotel.

If done improperly, that person’s life could be affected.

Right now Japan is worried about things like gambling addictions, suspicious strangers, and money laundering, but first and foremost, we need to focus on the English problem.

This is a reposting of the February 25, 2019 article from our CEO Ibai Ameztoy on IZANAU. Read the original here.

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