Entertainment | Feb 23

What is the current legal position regarding gambling in Japan, and how does it compare to neighbouring countries?

Currently, the legal position regarding gambling in Japan is complex. Most forms of gambling are illegal, and anyone participating in them can be punished with a fine.

The only exceptions to the ban on gambling are horse racing, bicycle racing, powerboat racing, and asphalt speedway motorcycle racing.

Gambling on these types of races is permitted according to Article 185 of the Japanese Penal Code, but other forms of gambling were totally prohibited prior to 2018. This was the year when the Japanese Diet passed the Act for the Development of Specified Complex Tourist Facilities Areas (the Act). The Act allows gambling to be legally available in certain designated places that are privately regulated.

What is happening with the new gambling regulations in Japan?

Since 27 July 2018, when the Japanese Diet passed the Act, private casino operators can bid for three available licenses in Osaka, Tokyo, and Yokohama. No license has been issued yet, but if an organisation does receive a license, it will be able to operate an 'Integrated Resort' with a casino on the premises.

These latest updates to the legal position regarding gambling in Japan do not affect the position regarding gambling overall. They also have no impact on the fact that online gambling is illegal in Japan. We spoke to an expert on the Japanese online gambling market who told us:

“The changes that happened in 2018 widened the scope for gambling in Japan to an extent. However, outside of these potential tourist complexes, gambling is still prohibited. This prohibition includes online gambling, which is illegal even when using an offshore casino. It remains to be seen whether the situation will change in the future.”

The legal position regarding gambling in Japan is similar to that in the neighbouring countries of Russia, China, and South Korea.

How the legal position of gambling in Japan compares to its neighbours

In most parts of China, gambling is prohibited as it is in Japan. The exception to this rule is the Special Administrative Region of Macau which is known for its casinos and for welcoming gamblers from other countries.

Russia is also not gambling-friendly. In 2006, a law was passed that banned online gambling. This was followed by a 2009 law that outlawed gambling completely with the exception of four designated zones in the country.

In South Korea, there are 23 land-based casinos. Most of them only permit gambling by tourists and not by Korean nationals. The only exception to this is the Kangwon Casino which is a remote location that is a far distance from major cities. In the case of online gambling it’s prohibited in South Korea.

It’s clear that Japan’s attitude towards gambling is closely in line with that of other surrounding nations. Whether there will be any further changes to Japan’s legal position in the future remains to be seen and will be the subject of much interest.

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