With a population of 126 million people, Japan generates almost the same gambling revenue as that of the United States which is home to nearly twice as many people. The small island country does not have legal casino gaming in the conventional sense of the word, although it had more than 12,400 parlors for the popular arcade game pachinko as of 2011. It is worth noting, however, pachinko winners are not paid in actual cash but in tokens instead.
Legal Forms of Gambling in Japan
The betting and lottery laws in the country are very restrictive. For the time being, the Land of the Rising Sun has legal and regulated land-based betting on sports, horse, bicycle speedway, and powerboat racing. Land-based lotteries are allowed as well.
Wagering on such activities is legal as long as they are operated by the local government. Poker and casino games with fixed odds like roulette, baccarat, and blackjack are explicitly prohibited under the provisions of the Japanese Criminal Code. This applies to both running and playing them.
With that said, the winds of change are already blowing on Japanese soil. The country is preparing for the opening of its first three legal integrated casino resorts, with bids planned to start in January 2021. This was made possible with the signing of the Integrated Resort Implementation Act into law back in 2018.
The introduction of this bill also led to the establishment of a special regulatory body, the Casino Administration Committee, mandated with the responsibility of exclusively overseeing said integrated resorts. The Japanese lawmakers take responsible gambling very seriously and will require locals to pay special fees upon entering the premises of integrated casino resorts, once the latter are built, of course.
Online Gambling Remains Illegal for the Time Being
However, the current regulation in Japan is still very tough on gambling activities, in general, prohibiting all forms of online gaming for real money. For the time being, there are no legal and locally regulated online casinos to service Japanese residents. Nevertheless, many online casinos do accept real-money bets from Japanese players.
Such websites are known to support the local language, allowing customers from the country to make deposits and withdrawals in the JPY currency. Japan-friendly operators normally run their business under valid licenses but these are issued by offshore gambling regulators, located in other countries with legal online gambling. Some operators that target Japanese players even cater to them with localized games and banking solutions.
Cases of Player Prosecution
As for Japanese players, the local government is generally not in the habit of prosecuting them for taking their action to offshore-licensed online casinos. Nevertheless, there are select few instances from the past where residents have been arrested for gambling online on such websites.
Charges were pressed against them as well since partaking in casino gambling is practically a crime under the country’s Criminal Code. This applies regardless of whether illegal bets are made online or at brick-and-mortar venues. Separate instances of online player prosecution occurred in 2016 and again in 2017.
The Japanese authorities have made no serious attempts at blocking the domains of foreign-based gambling operators, either. The main trouble results from the fact Japanese players who gamble at such websites practically lack the protection of a local online gambling regulator.
In the occasion of a local player being cheated by an unscrupulous offshore casino, they will have no one to turn to for resolving the issue. Because of this, it is of utmost importance for Japanese players to carefully research their Japan-friendly online casinos of interest prior to registering and transferring real money to their balance.
It is advisable to check where the casino is licensed as well as what precautions it takes to protect customers and their money. Trustworthy Japan-friendly operators also take serious measures to protect customers from addiction and promote responsible gambling.
Regulation Is Possible in the Future
We are yet to see what the future holds for online casino players from Japan. Many industry experts are hopeful the country’s government will change its stance and legalize online gambling in the years to follow.
They believe the Japanese officials are soon to realize the potential of a regulated online gambling sector when it comes to generating additional profits for the country. Apart from delivering more revenue for the local economy, a regulated online gambling market will translate into adequate player protection and responsible gambling measures.