When it comes to gambling in Japan, the laws and regulations can be quite strict.
Gambling in Japan is generally banned throughout the country under the Criminal Code chapter 23, but despite this there are a few exceptions to the ban. Different types of betting, public sports, lottery and toto (football pools) are accepted by the country as legal forms of gambling due to their use of helping to increase the income of national and local governments.
Any casinos that are operating in Japan are currently illegal and despite efforts from the Liberal Democratic Party who have urged the government to legalise them as a way to boost tourism, there has been no change. Nevertheless, with the Olympic Games set to be held in Tokyo in 2020, there is a strong chance that activists for casinos could begin to push their pro-casino stance, as guests in hotels for the Olympics will need some form of entertainment.
Any casino operating within the country is illegal, and this also goes for online casinos. If the headquarters of an online casino is based in Japan, it is deemed to be illegal. However, Japanese citizens are allowed to gamble online as long as the online casino is not based in the country. Although it is frowned upon, gambling abroad is not illegal.
Instead of having casinos in the country, Japan has what is known as pachinko parlours. Pachinko parlours are extremely popular in Japan, and pachinko machines are used as both a form of arcade game, as they replicate pinball machines, and, more recently, are also used as a form of gambling. Although winnings cannot be converted into cash from these machines, players can exchange any winnings for prizes or tokens. Pachinko parlours are widespread throughout the country with a figure around 15,000 of them. Although the gambling form of pachinko is illegal, it is often simply ignored and deemed to be a form of entertainment by the police and governing officials. Pachinko gambling is a big money business in Japan, and in 2005, the government estimated the annual pachinko gambling volume reached around ¥29 trillion.
Online betting is accepted by the country, even when its headquarters are located in Japan, but only for lottery, soccer toto and public sport – but this is only for pari-mutuel betting with the official channels. Other than this, Japanese citizens must use foreign betting sites, in order to bet on the likes of horse racing, online poker, bingo, and other Japanese sports such as J-League, and BJL League basketball.
While the penalties for breaching a gambling law or regulation in the country are deemed to be harsh, the law is rarely enforced – but it is not worth taking the chance. A first offence for a player is a petty fine not exceeding ¥500,000 (the equivalent of just over £3500), but repeat offenders can be imprisoned for up to 3 years. If you’re looking to gamble in Japan, then you’ll have to visit a pachinko parlour, or hop online to play on an online casino in order to get the thrill of a bricks and mortar casino.