Japanese have always been passionate about gambling and all kinds of games. There are many traditional games in Japan that have been played for centuries here. However, as a technologically advanced nation, Japanese always follow the most recent trends, so it is little wonder many players from Japan prefer online gambling to other games and betting entertainments.
One of the most popular pastimes for Japanese fans of betting is online casinos Japan managed by foreign casino operators. And yet, according to the Japanese laws, this type of gambling is illegal! Are there any legal ways to gamble in this country?
Japanese Online Gambling Regulations
At the time of writing (because legislation can change fast!) almost every type of real money betting is illegal in Japan. Gambling for real cash is a criminal offense. The only legal exceptions include horse racing betting and some public sports. Other legally available entertainments that include the possibility of winning real money are lottery and football pools.
In the previous years, reputable casino operators that run land based casino houses started bidding for legal Japanese licenses, to operate offline casinos in the biggest cities. Recently, the government has created a special authority that would supervise the activity of land based betting facilities.
Another legal game which is insanely popular in Japan is Pachinko, but it is an exception from the Criminal Code, due to historical and cultural reasons.
Illegal Gambling in Japan
There are three types of illegal gambling that still take place in Japan.
Firstly, these are illegal offline casino houses mostly controlled by Yakuza. Secondly, there are Mahjong parlors where gamblers play this old game for real money; Mahjong is considered illegal in Japan.
And thirdly, there are numerous mobile gambling sites; these are not exactly casinos. The most popular game on these mobile sites or apps is rock-paper-scissors. People play for real money and can win cash prizes. According to the government, citizens waste lots of time and money on these sites, so owners of such platforms and applications are pursued actively.
Eventually, there are online casino sites operated from abroad, where Japanese bettors play casino games. Online casinos are illegal, but not really blocked or persecuted by the government. This is why online casinos are incredibly popular among Japanese.
Popular Legal Gambling Options
There are legal options for gambling in Japan, though. Local gamblers and tourists can enjoy games and win cash or prizes without being persecuted. However, there are certain nuances that should be taken into consideration.
Pachinko is a huge industry; there are thousands of small parlors all around Japan. This is basically a slot machine game, where players have to push balls to special holes to activate the slots and win jackpots. The more they win, the more balls they get in the machine, in order to play even more. Eventually, the player can exchange their balls for prizes of different values and types.
Pachinko parlors are legally prohibited to pay winnings out in cash. However, pachinko players usually exchange balls for tokens or even small slices of gold in plastic cases, and then exchange these tokens for cash in a nearby shop. Since all pachinko parlors are operated by private companies, the “nearby shops” are run by the same companies, too. Since the pachinko booth does not give customers cash, they do not violate the law.
Pachinko games are still legal, but they are insanely popular and this is why Japanese government started paying close attention to them, in order to regulate this business better.
Surprisingly, while online casino sites are illegal in Japan, there are few casino sites blocked for access, and few to zero persecutions of the local gamblers. While Japan does not regulate, and therefore cannot allow, online casino sites for residents, they cannot block all the casinos targeting Japan. This is especially true for reliable, reputable licensed and certified international casino platforms.
As a result, most Japanese gamblers reach out to offshore casino sites and play for real money there. While formally this is illegal, this market is not regulated properly. Probably we will see improvements in regulations of this niche in the near future.