Last Updated: November 6, 2014 – A huge blow came two days ago when it no longer looks promising for land-based casinos to be legalized and built. The goal was to allow casinos in Japan and have several built and ready to go for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to capitalize on the tourist boom that comes with such a large world-wide event. Their appears to still be a chance of legalizing casinos in 2016, but even then it would be too late for the casinos to be constructed in time for the Olympic Games.
Gambling and sport betting are both very popular in Japan, though only certain forms are lawful. Specifically, the forms authorized are lottery, scratch cards, pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, keirin (bicycle racing), powerboat racing (kyōtei), and autorace (motorcycles), and soccer toto wagers on J-League. All other forms are prohibited under Chapter 23 of the Japanese Penal Code. A huge population of Japanese people still bet, and they bet BIG, but they do it online primarily at Bet365.com. This site is known to take ‘frowned upon’ Asian bets, like from India.
While the penalties for unlawful betting are harsh, the law is rarely enforced. Nonetheless, a first offense for participating as a player is a petty fine not exceeding ¥500,000. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned up to 3-years.
To show an example of how the law is not enforced, I start this article by discussing pachinko. I then discuss online betting from Japan and finally conclude with vast details regarding of our many legal forms of gambling. The goal of this article is to be the most complete guide to Gambling in Japan.
Pachinko Gambling is Widespread
There are no legal casinos in Japan. However, what we do have is pachinko parlours. These are similar to arcade games found elsewhere in the world that are popular with adolescents playing games to win tickets and then redeeming them for prizes. Here by law you must be age 18+ to play and the machines are used strictly for gambling. The video below explains in English how pachinko works.
Places similar to the one showed in the video are available all over the country – to the tune of perhaps almost 15,000 pachinko parlours nationwide. These are allowed under the law as an amusement, but gambling on them is banned. Despite this, as shown in the video, the balls won are redeemable for prizes or tokens. Those redeeming tokens take them to an offsite location for cash payment.
Though gambling pachinko is illegal, how the system works is common knowledge and is mostly ignored by the police. According to Wikipedia Entry: Pachinko a parlour in Kanagawa prefecture had their tokens counterfeited and redeemed. Upon calling the police and admitting to having an illegal redemption centre, the police did nothing to the parlour and only worked to track the thief.
Pachinko gambling is a big money business. About 8-years ago (in 2005), the government estimated annual pachinko gambling volume had reached ¥29 trillion (US$378 billion). This is triple the amount of all legal gambling in Japan combined including lottery, horse racing, soccer toto and public sport. This should about tell you about what you need to know regarding our gambling law.
We have many underground casinos, local bookies and card games. Even with poker illegal, the Everest Poker Japan Cup was held here n 2007, and the All-Japan Poker Championship was co-organized by a local newspaper. Online gambling is also widespread. The laws are on the books, but little is done to go after casual gamblers. In the rare times action is taken, it is only a petty fine for the first offense.
Online Betting in Japan
The Japanese government allows online betting for lottery, soccer toto, and public sport. However, this is only for pari-mutuel betting with the official channels. For those interesting in betting fixed odds, making in-play wagers, or playing casino, poker or bingo this is possible using foreign betting sites. For example, at www.bet365.com it is possible to open an account using a Japanese home address. You can also keep your account balance in Japanese Yen. From this website you can wager sports, horse races, online poker, casino and bingo and much more.
For sports betting, the wagering options are many. Bet365 offers betting on nearly every sports league and sport played around the world. This includes Japanese sports. Odds on J-League (J1), J-League division 2 (J2), Nabisco Cup, Emperors Cup and Super Cup soccer are available. You can also find NPB baseball betting and even JB League and JBL League basketball.
The one sport they don’t cover enough of is Japanese volleyball. If you are interested in betting Japan V-Premiere League or any competition our national team participates in I suggest www.bwin.com. They as well as William Hill, Blue Square, and countless other UK based companies have online betting in Japanese Yen (JPY).
These gambling sites clearly display the available deposit and withdrawal options for Japan. It is possible to deposit in Japanese yen (JPY) using your VISA, MasterCard credit card or VISA Electron debit card via the online e-wallet Skrill. Other e-wallets supported in Japan include NETELLER, EntroPay, and Click2Pay.