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Gambling Laws

Gambling Laws in Japan

Under Chapter 23 of the Criminal Code of Japan, gambling is generally under a widespread prohibition, with massive fines and even imprisonment for law-abusing people. For several reasons and in many areas, there are exceptions to this. These exceptions¬†include the prefectural and city-wide takarakuji (lotteries), community sports betting and, of course, pachinko. It is a hybrid slot machine/pinball machine seen up and down the country in pachinko parlours. As a consequence of all this, sometimes it can be a little challenging to understand Japan’s gaming policy and regulations.

Japanese Lottery

Japan’s lottery is a fairly popular activity, and lottery pools based on office are not unusual. Lotteries, whether played at the ATM in the form of a prefectural lottery or scratch coupons you can collect at your local convenience store called kombini, come under the law of takarakuji. This law states that only the 47 prefectures and 12 specifically designated cities of the country can hold a takarakuji. It also stipulates that at least 50% of any lottery’s prize pool must go to local government and charities. This boost to the revenue of the local government is the main reason that takarakuji operates within its own set of laws.


Sports Betting

Sports gambling in Japan is an entirely different thing altogether. Online gambling is banned here but, fortunately, Japanese authorities are not blocking international betting sites or punishing users for punters. There are exceptions in the form of international bookies such as Bet365, providing Japanese language options and paying out in JPY if requested. Domestic sports betting is subject to a different set of rules. Football, keiba (horse racing), powerboat racing, motorcycle racing and keirin can be wagered on in a pari-mutuel format. It is a type of betting in which those backing the top three places divide the stakes of the losers (less the commission of the operator).


Casino gambling in Japan is currently an exciting topic. For some time, LDP has been working towards legalizing and opening Japanese casinos to boost tourism and the economy in the process. Nevertheless, the campaign has not gone very far in the face of a series of illicit gambling controversies in recent years and opposition complaints. As casino gambling is still illegal in Japan, the majority of people, who want to put a little money on the line end up at one of the many pachinko parlours in the country.



Pachinko is a unique Japanese slot machine combination, a pinball machine, and whichever videogame you like at the moment. You start by feeding money in to unlock a series of small metal balls, like with a slot machine. Such balls are then shot in, pinball-style, and powered instead of flippers using pneumatic air jets. Since cash betting is illegal, you are paid out in balls. Swapping these balls for cash in a separate building near the parlour does not break the gambling law.

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