Home Insights & Advice Regulatory frameworks for online gambling in Japan

Regulatory frameworks for online gambling in Japan

by John Saunders
13th Oct 21 3:09 pm

The status of gambling in Japan differs from other regions around the world. The country is regarded conservative when it comes to entertainment from the western world. Japanese laws are strict and you can see the difference between skill games and luck-based ones. Only the first group is legalised, while the games of chances are illegal. The country has about 20,000 gambling halls that provide regular entertainment to its visitors. For more details about the current regulatory situation and future expectations, check this review.

Offline gambling restriction history

After many debates, the Japanese Diet (legislative authority) passed the Bill in 2016, promoting the implementation of Integrated Resort Areas. The Bill focuses on the legalisation of casino facilities across Japan, which are prohibited by the law. The national legislation is confusing for non-native visitors who don’t understand the background of a big “pachinko” industry, without legalised gambling.

The current situation is unstable and changes are required. The law related to gambling stems from the start of the 20th century and does not correspond to the demands of modern life. The list of legalised gaming activities is limited to bicycle racing and horse-riding. In addition to it, the country added boat racing and motorbiking to provide a list of four legalised activities. 

Current legal frameworks

According to general norms, gambling is prohibited in Japan based on Article 185 of the Penal Code. The words of the Article also give details on possible punishments that have to be imposed if you bet on games of chance. One of the most disputed parts of the Japanese regulatory norms is the Penal Code. According to this code, not every segment of a game should be determined by chance or accident. It means that even if a specific part of winning/ losing is based on luck, the game is prohibited as it belongs to the gambling category. 

The opening of a gambling house for unlicensed games of chance inJapanese territory is also prohibited. The public lottery and Soccer Pools are not restricted at the moment. Everyone who wishes to operate allowed activities needs a license. To date, the government issued licenses to the following providers: 

  • Horse racing: It is operated by the Japan Racing Association. There are a total of 24 non-JRA tracks which are operated by the government.
  • Lottery: The lottery is another legalised gambling form and customers can buy tickets at specific lottery stands. The national lottery is operated by Toto – which is the only licensed portal for web gambling.
  • Pachinko: It is not managed by the government. The game is unique and very popular across the country.  
  • Bicycle Racing: It has been very popular for years. Its popularity dates back to the end of the Second World War.

Online gambling in Japan

Wagering on lottery, public sport, and toto is approved by the local government. At the same time, these are the only legalised gambling forms in Japan based on chance alone. Players who want to access games at online casinos can only visit websites operated by foreign providers and enjoy both poker and bingo. When you play at international online casinos,  you are playing in a grey area and Japanese laws are not applicable. This zone is regarded grey for several reasons:

  • Japanese legislation is not used
  • Online casinos operating on overseas servers
  • An international organisation cannot be controlled by Japanese law

If you play at international online casinos, you don’t risk being arrested even if some legal cases pertaining to this rule have already occurred in Japan.

Mobile gaming is also prohibited across the country. If you decide to visit one of the international betting operators, you should also know how to recognise illegal casinos. The provider which doesn’t have a license from an established organisation should be avoided at all costs.

Steps toward legalisation of online gambling

Over the previous years, Japan has considered the benefits and drawbacks of legalising the entire gambling industry. The legalisation would bring extra profits to the country, but there are some concerns regarding excessive gambling.

Based on several studies, the number of people interested in local casinos is increasing rapidly. Japan has a great gambling market around Pachinko, where even more money is circulating compared to casinos. The country will also get its IR (integrated resort) casino. At the moment, you cannot see any Japanese online casinos but this country has great capacities for delivering the best gambling services in the world. The legalisation of online casinos would come across wide national approval and a positive economic effect for the country.

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