Gambling and Gambling Laws in Japan

The history of Japan’s gambling habits and laws is a rather difficult one, especially as a large majority of it is generally banned by the Criminal Code chapter 23. However there are a few exceptions including different types of betting on public sports, the lottery and toto which are football pools – accepted as it increases the income of national and local governments.

Pachinko in Tokyo
Pachinko in Tokyo


Casinos are currently illegal in Japan, however there were movements within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that urged the government to open casinos to encourage and boost tourism in Japan.

Japan is one of the few Asian nations that is still adamant not to legalize casinos. This has meant any players looking to improve their blackjack skills are forced to go overseas to play.

However as the 2020 Olympic Games are set to be held in Tokyo this could all change. Although casino games and the Olympics may seem like an absurd connection, the Japanese capital will need hotels and guests will need sources of entertainment. Both Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International have shown interest in investing in casino hotels and entertainment venues in Tokyo.


This game, which is very much like a mix of pinball and slot machines, is incredibly popular throughout Japan. Pachinko is officially not considered gambling as Japanese laws regard the game as an exception to the criminal code on gambling due to its lengthy historical and cultural roots.

There are around 12,480 pachinko parlours in Japan and the game has proven to be incredibly popular. Pachinko consists of players looking to get pinball balls into the correct slots, as they succeed they are rewarded with more balls which they can then exchange for prizes.

The reason why pachinko is legal is that money cannot be awarded at the parlours; instead the prizes are usually tokens which players then exchange at a neighbouring shop for cash. The shops in which the prizes are sold tend to be owned by the same company as the pachinko parlours, which is one way to get around the law.


As well as pachinko, different lotteries known as takarakuji are also incredibly popular and a legal version of gambling in Japan. In Japan there are three main types of lottery which consist of unique number lotteries, selected number lotteries and scratch cards.

Lottery games are held by large cities in Japan on a regular basis throughout the year. Lottery tickets are often sold at a price of about 100 to 500 yen. They can be purchased from lottery booths and many stores as well as some ATMs. Winners of the lottery can win top prizes of up to 100 million yen and sometimes more. The law behind takarakuji ensures that the entire prize pool for any given lottery should be less than 50 per cent of the total sales; the rest of the money goes to local government organizations as well as charities.

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