Up Front: Casino Culture
A LOTTO NERVE AT JAPANESE BANKS
You can in Japan. Johnan Shinkin Bank, a scrappy Tokyo credit cooperative, has defied staid Japanese bank regulators by introducing time-deposits that pay prizes up to $510 based on random drawings. Depositors have flocked to Johnan, bringing in $1 billion since the lottery-deposits were offered on Nov. 7.
The gimmick has Johnan Shinkin's competitors fuming. Takashi Tamaki, head of the Regional Banks Assn., complains that banks should be helping customers "by improving services and raising interest rates, not with prizes." His group and another small-bank federation had warned members not to follow Johnan Shinkin's example, but Japan's Fair Trade Commission told the groups to back off. Although the powerful Finance Ministry isn't amused by Johnan Shinkin, there's nothing in the law that prohibits lottery-linked deposits.
Meanwhile, 49 other small lending institutions have since cooked up instruments using the lottery gimmick. And the Federation of Bankers Associations, which represents Japan's large banks, just lifted its ban on cash prizes. By Larry Holyoke