5 Interesting Facts About Gambling in Japan

Japan is synonymous with many things — sushi, tea ceremonies, calligraphy, flower arranging, ninjas, samurais, anime, martial arts, precision, timeliness, and more. Still, gambling isn’t one of the words we associate Japan with. But should we?

Even though most forms of gambling are legal, the residents of the Country of the Rising Sun have been mad about some forms of gambling. Let’s check out some of the amazing facts related to gambling and Japan.

Japan Has a Gambling History

The first recorded trace of gambling in Japan occurred around the eighth century when people enjoyed a game called ban-sugoroku (roughly translated as double six). The game was very popular and addictive enough to make Emperor Tenmu completely mad about it. Having witnessed that, Empress Jito (Tenmu’s successor to the throne) banned the game.

However, Japan continued to fight all forms of gambling throughout its history. It was even home to professional gamblers called bakuto, who were the reason why increased violence was reported surrounding gambling activities.

When you take all of that into account, there’s a good reason why present-day Japan outlawed most forms of gambling.

Lotteries Are Legal

Several types of gambling activities are legal, and the most popular one is lotteries. Many prefectures and large cities offer various lotteries that take place throughout the year. There are three types of lottery games available to the Japanese residents: scratch cards, selected number lotteries, and unique number lotteries. Tickets usually cost up to ¥500 and prizes can be north of ¥100 million.

Horse Racing Is Legal & Popular

Another popular and legal form of gambling is betting on horse races. The Japanese people are in love with parimutuel betting, as there are more than 20,000 races taking place in the country annually. Apart from horses, betting on many other public sports is legal, including bicycle racing, asphalt speedway motorcycle racing, and powerboat racing.

Pachinko All the Way

The only form of gambling that can be loosely related to casino games is pachinko. If you ask any Japanese person which casino game is the most popular in their country, pachinko will be the most common answer.

There are pachinko parlours all over the country, with millions of people enjoying this game on a daily basis.

The easiest way to describe pachinko is a mixture of pinball and slots. The game has been part of Japanese tradition for a long time, and that’s why it’s excluded from the criminal code.

Still, players cannot really receive money from playing pachinko. Instead, they can receive non-monetary prizes that they can sell in shops willing to buy those prizes, which all happen to be nearby. 

Japan Has Big Plans With Land-Based Gambling

Even though gambling is still officially illegal, that could change in the near future. The Japanese authorities have been working on a project that includes building three integrated resorts on the Japanese soil. These would resemble resorts in Las Vegas or Macau, meaning they will offer a wide array of amenities to visitors, including a hotel, a casino, dining options, and more.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done in this regard. According to most optimistic predictions, the first integrated resort will open its doors as soon as 2025, but probably even later.

Several companies are actively campaigning in the country, trying to persuade the officials to choose them over other competitors for a license to build an integrated resort. Moreover, several local governments from Japanese cities and prefectures are also competing for becoming one of the three destinations to host a resort. Some of them stumbled upon bigger public resistance than others.

Final Thoughts

Japan has been the land-based gambling-related news, as it has been making small yet essential steps towards the legalisation of this activity. Until then, the people of Japan will have an opportunity to enjoy other forms of gambling that are already legal, including lottery, public sports wagering (including parimutuel betting), and pachinko. 

Feb 25, 2021
Igor Rumyantsev
Igor is the Head of Banking and Licensing Department at GamingLicensing who has over 15 years of experience in the industry. He is responsible for game and payment system integration, iGaming product licensing, and B2B certification. Igor is an expert in the gambling sector and game licensing. He keeps a close watch on industry trends and is always open to new ideas that can improve GamingLicensing’s services and help our clients.