Things about Japanese gambling you probably didn't know -- Apr 13
The dynamics of the gambling world varies from country to country.

Japan has always been able to carve out a niche of its own in every comparison. The same applies to gambling. It should be mentioned that, officially, gambling is legally prohibited in Japan.

However, it remains the most preferred source of thrill and entertainment among the people of Japan. Almost every mainstream game associated with gambling, be it slots or poker, are prevalent in Japan, but, of course, with a Japanese twist. As you red on, you will get to know more about what makes Japanese gambling particularly unique.

Unique Facts about Japanese Gambling

● Horseracing

In a country like Britain, horseracing is considered a prestigious event that people attend with their families. They even dress up to go there. However, that isn’t the situation in Japan at all. In fact, in Japan, if you take your family to a horseracing game being all dressed up in fancy clothes, people will give you a rather awkward stare.

Horse racing, in Japan, is not an event. It is simply a game for gamblers to bet on. It is almost like just one more small part of their regular life.

● Keirin

Keirin’s a bicycle race in Japan where gamblers bet on cyclists. The cyclists usually have to take laps in a 500-metre cycling track for 4 to 6 times. This form of gambling was unique to Japan until Korea adopted it recently.

Keirin used to be a game of only men, but recently, female cyclists have started participating in it as well. Cyclists tend to cycle at a speed of 60 kilometres per hour on an average. Tokyo has 2 venues for keirin, one in Tachikawa and one in Chofu.

● Slots + Pinball = Pachinko

Pachinko is a definite go-to for players at Japanese casinos. It is, in reality, a way of combining pinball with slots. It is loved and hailed as a Japanese tradition since many decades. However, one cannot win real money in pachinko, at least not directly.

When a player wins a game, they get some form of prize or gift that they have to sell to a store that is willing to buy it. Such stores are readily available at locations situated close to the gaming venue. Millions of Japanese gamblers enjoy this game every day. There are pachinko parlours all over Japan.

● Legal Status

Even though, some games are not only legal, but also rather popular, gambling in Japan is mostly illegal in the country. However, the Japanese government has big plans for land-based gambling. Certain statutory amendments are due. These amendments will loosen restrictions and allow the establishment of casinos across the country. If you play real money casino online, keep this in mind. This is to be done with the purpose of pushing up tax revenue along with guaranteeing employment.

In fact, this is also a productive way to encourage tourism. Once the government brings about the required changes in the regulatory framework, Japan can have a full-fledged gambling industry.

● Poker with a Japanese Twist

Japan has its own version of poker. It is called “Maajan” or “Mahjong”. Yes, it is indeed a type of game played by gamblers. However, certain technical aspects of the game are used as an excuse to claim that it officially doesn’t qualify as gambling in order to bypass legal restrictions.

One unique aspect of this Japanese version of poker is that players use tiles instead of cards. That is why it is played in almost every casino in Japan, not in private spaces. Maajan is never played at homes because it is believed that the mixing of the tiles may cause noise and it would cause disturbance for neighbours.

● Soccer Betting

Sports betting has gained a lot of popularity in Japan within a rather short span of time. This is especially applicable to soccer matches. In Japan, gamblers attempt predicting who’ll emerge as the winner in addition to how much a team will score. Sports betting started gaining traction among Japanese gamblers since the year of 2001. Towards the beginning, some resistance was observed among people. However, eventually, it gained wide acceptability. Quite often, it is also referred to as “Toto”.


Keeping the aforementioned factors in mind, we can conclude without a doubt that gambling seems to have a rather bright future in Japan after all. The things we talked about are just the tip of the iceberg.

Gamblers in Japan bet on the widest variety of games, be it motor racing or boat racing. In a nutshell, Japan has this unique way of taking something mainstream from the West and adding a nice Japanese touch to it, making it even better. Slots become pachinko, poker becomes maajan and so on. If you are a gambling enthusiast looking for a country to visit as a tourist, Japan is your ideal destination.

Author’s Bio

Jason Copley is a veteran gambler. He has visited various countries across the world as a traveller. Every time he visits a country, he seeks to try out the gambling scene there. Jason visited Japan on multiple occasions.