2. Legalized Gambling and Lottery in Japan

“General and Online Gambling Laws in Japan”

In the remainder of this article I’ll discuss the many forms of fully legal gambling Japan. If you are also interested in watching a video covering gambling, I’ve included one in English below.

To explain this video quickly: the first terminal shown is our standard numbers lottery. The terminal shown at the 40 second mark sells multiple lotteries and scratch cards. At the 50 second mark you can see boat racing. At about the 1:27 mark you’ll see one of our legal horse racing tracks.

Lottery in Japan

Lottery had existed here since around 1630 but was banned in 1842. The majority of our current gambling laws stem from 1907 legislation where lottery remained prohibited. In 1937, war concern left our government with an urgent need for funds. In response, they passed the Temporary Funds Adjustment Act (TFAA) of 1937 which created a national lottery. While repealed the following year, the same emergency need for funds followed World War II. This created another national lottery beginning in October 1945.

The legal basis for allowing permanent lotteries came about with two statues. The ability to legalise it is included in the Government Finance Act (Act No. 109 of 1948). The Lottery Voucher Act (Act No. 144 of 1948) did just that – effective 12 July 1948. We abolished the government ran lottery in 1954 putting it in the hands of our local governments. In 1964, we moved to regulate lottery nationally and created the Japan Lottery Association.

Today, authorized lotteries are called takarakuji (宝くじ). These lotteries are the most popular form of legal Japanese gambling. For those speaking our language you can learn all about them at the official takarakuji website. In this article I provide only a brief overview of the most popular national wide lotteries. Other lotteries (not mentioned) are run by banks, charities and by prefectures or major cities.

Nationwide Japanese Lotteries (Takarakuji)

  • Year-end Jumbo Lottery – (Nenmatsu Jumbo Takarakuji) – is the largest lottery not only in Japan but in all of Asia. Tickets costing ¥300 are pre-printed so the exact number of winners is known in advanced. Tickets use numbers 0-9 for its 6 numbers and also has a group number (1-68). The drawing is held on New Year’s Eve. For 2012, there were 68 first place winners of 400 million yen who had the exact match 195280-61. The 204 winners of 30 million yen are those who held one before (195279-61), one after (195281-61) and all correct except the bonus (195280-XX). There are smaller prizes for third, fourth, fifth and sixth place.
  • Jumbo Lottery – there are 4 other Jumbo lotteries each year that work the same as the one described above. Three have long been held which are Green held in March, Dream held in June, and Summer held in August. One additional Jumbo has been added where the proceeds go to an earthquake relief fund. 2013 scheduling for that added draw is still pending.
  • Mini Lotto – released in 1999, Mini Lotto is a weekly game drawn on Tuesdays costing ¥200 per ticket. There are 5 slots that and a bonus slot. For each you must select a number up to 31. If you get all correct and the bonus you win the jackpot which is generally between ¥6 million and ¥14 million. If you get 4 of 5 numbers and the bonus correct you win about ¥150,000. If you do the same without the bonus you win about ¥10,000. Also, 3 of 5 correct pays ¥1000.
  • Lot 6 – released in 2000, works similar to Mini Lotto. However, it is drawn twice a week on Monday and Thursday. The cost is ¥200 per wager. The major differences are this uses an extra slot and the numbers range up to 43. That’s six numbers 1-43 and a bonus number. This pays 5 places. The first place jackpot can be up to ¥1 billion with carryover but this is rare. If there are winners on back-to-back weeks the prize may only be ¥60 million. Big jackpots do happen. The December 24, 2012 draw paid ¥374.4 million as there were no winners the previous two draws.
  • Numbers 3 – this, along with Numbers 4, is the standard daily numbers game in Japan. You pick three numbers (1-9) at a cost of ¥200 per wager. The prizes vary a lot. All three in exact order is often around ¥80,000, the box (any order) ranges ¥12,000 to ¥30,000 for most draws. There are also prizes for first two, first two any order, and mini which is last two in exact order.
  • Numbers 4 – All details regarding this lottery are the exact same as the above except it is played with 4 numbers not 3. The prizes paid are all four exact order (straight), all four any (box), first three exact (set-straight) and first three any (set-box). The prizes vary a lot. In January 2013 first ranged from ¥723,000 to ¥1.3 million.
  • Scratch Cards – scratch cards, also called instant lotto have been offered in Japan since 1984. They can be purchased at nationwide lottery stands. Most versions including Premium Scratch, Mrs. Happy Link, Puzzles Scratch and Scratch Lottery cost ¥200 per ticket. There are ¥100 tickets such as Lucky 3. Playing involves simply scratching the card and then looking at the instructions on it to see if you’ve won.

The takarakuji lotteries are strictly considered an amusement by Japanese law. This means there are no age limits or taxes owed on winnings. Even children can purchase tickets. Also by law, you must be a bona fide resident of Japan to collect a prize. Tickets are not sold abroad.

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