Gambling in Japan: from pachinko parlors to casino resorts

Mix three ingredients – the world’s 3rd biggest economy, rich gaming culture, large population – and you’ll get a perfect smoothie for boosting the gambling industry.

According to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., online gambling could bring in extra income of around $7-8 bln per year for Japan’s Ministry of Finance. The numbers could be even bigger after developing an effective market strategy.

Japan’s parliament has recently passed a law that allows three casinos to open in the country, as a part of resort complexes. The government will start to award casino licenses soon, and a number of major global operators are preparing bids to secure one of three certificates.

In the past

Gambling in Japan: from pachinko parlors to casino resorts

Like many other things about the Land of the Rising Sun, the country’s approach to gambling is unique and somewhat strange.

Gambling is illegal, as Japanese criminal law clearly states. But Japan’s horse-racing industry is bigger than any other similar business in the world. The government also runs boat, motorcycle and bicycle racing betting operation, with billions in wagers every year. Such gray markets as betting on baseball, sumo, mahjong are tolerated.

And of course, the nation plays pachinko, a weird combination of slot machine and pinball. Pachinko is bigger than the Japanese auto industry, with more than 30 million players losing around $50 billion in thousands of parlors every year.

Pachinko jackpot: these small iron balls are then exchanged for money

Online poker is banned officially, but you can find many players from Japan at poker websites.

Some Japanese celebrities like to try their luck in gambling. There was a famous incident recently featuring the world’s best badminton player Kento Momota, who admitted visiting an illegal casino in Tokyo. It led to a scandal that involved fines and bans and was followed up by tsunami of outrage from Momota’s fans. He explained later: “My first gambling experience happened at a legal casino, but then this game took over my soul”. Kento also suggested that maybe it was time to change conservative attitudes and finally legalize gambling in his home country.

Everybody understood that the question hung heavy in the air. Japanese people have been waiting for a legislative initiative.


By adopting a law on development of integrated casino resorts, the National Diet (Japan’s parliament) has actually legalized gambling in the country. Investors from around the world felt the smell of cash. Genting Singapore, Melco Resorts & Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Caesars Entertainment are among at least eight suitors for the three Japanese integrated resort licenses. Some estimate that a potential casino market will hit $18 billion a year.

The project of integrated casino resort in Osaka proposed by Melco Resorts & Entertainment

In October 2018, NETELLER became available in Japan. This payment system is now one of the most used solutions for online gambling transactions.

De jure online gambling in Japan is still restricted, but there are no doubts that further legalization is only a matter of time.

Offline poker is also developing rapidly. The World Poker Tour (WPT) festival took place in Tokyo in September 2019. Live dealers were shuffling the cards this time, but it’s very likely robots will take their place in the nearest future.

Japanese fetish

Robots are already working at several poker clubs and receive only a positive feedback from players. The machines guarantee there will be no errors at all while dealing cards, no emotions – just a pure efficiency.

Also there are many poker clubs with girl dealers wearing maid uniform and anime hairstyle. They blow a kiss towards a winning player and even perform a small dance for jackpot winners.

Wide selection of dealers at a Japanese poker website

They definitely have their own atmosphere at those clubs. Players are allowed to make gestures like in Mafia party game and say “all-in” with Pikachu voice.

This unique and wonderful country has made a smart choice about the payment system for online gambling transactions. NETELLER is a world leading e-Wallet providing free deposits and instant cashouts from gambling websites.

Sign up at NETELLER via our loyalty program and you will get the following benefits:

  • fast account verification;
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Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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