For years now, Japan has had a very strict set of laws set in place to limit the gambling options of their citizens. However, their new laws are about to change that.
Gambling and Casinos Completely Legal in Japan
Being one of the few modern countries to have banned betting, Japan finally opened its doors to this form of entertainment.
Why Did Japan Deny Betting for so Long?
Japan is an old country of a proud nation with a long tradition, and betting was never a good fit into this puzzle. In the modern era, Japan serves as a look into the future. Being the leader in IT and automotive technology, Japan managed to set an example of how every country should look like in the 21st century. Therefore, it comes as quite a surprise that a law elected so long ago in the year 1907 has been in full force until 2019.
What is it about betting that Japanese find so repelling? — Well for one, they closely relate it to the notorious Yakuza, a powerful Japanese criminal organization. Although betting has been illegal in Japan for a really long time, it never really stopped the Yakuza from making a fortune of off it, as they had a vast network of underground casinos.
Next to criminal inclinations, Japanese realize the addictive nature gambling can have. It is something they are taught from a very young age.
Does That Mean There Is No Gambling in Japan at All?
Absolutely not. There are forms of legal gambling in Japan, but they’re just not seen as real gambling. Bingo and lottery are widely popular in Japan, and you can get scratch cards almost anywhere. Moreover, you definitely won’t find any casinos scattered all over the city, but you will find the famous Pachinko Parlors. Pachinko is a game that strongly resembles video slots, except you don’t get paid out in cash. If you win at Pachinko, you get a card that you can exchange for chocolates, clothing, etc. Gambling has always existed in Japan in one form or another, but it is simply different from what westerners are used to. Although, some forms of gambling are quite the same; for example, the Japanese love betting on horse racing and sports betting, in general, is legal. Here’s a short list of what types of gambling you can do in Japan should you ever visit:
- Lottery and bingo
- Horse racing
- Car racing
- Bicycle racing
- Boat racing
2016 Marked a New Era for Japan
After nearly 20 years of trying to pass the law which would make gambling legal, the government finally made it in 2016. There has definitely been a lot of resistance from the opposition who believes this law is devaluing Japanese tradition and culture. However, it is a strong impression that the people would like to be more open to the world and attract more tourists. This meant gambling had to become legal as a form of entertainment. Japan hopes to establish the committee for licenses in the first half of 2019, and in ideal conditions, some politicians would like to see the first casinos opened by 2020, in time for the Olympic Games. Although, more realistic estimates tell us it won’t happen any time before 2025, approximately.
Japan Won’t Be the New Las Vegas
If you hoped to fly over to Tokyo and see casinos just about anywhere, that won’t be the case. Passing the new gambling law comes with a price; the casinos will be integrated. This means they will probably be taking the first floors of different resorts where they can be highly monitored. This law strikingly resembles the one from Singapore, which was later on passed by South Korea as well. This is where the Japanese government saw the opening and decided to use the same model. Considering this law revived the tourism and the economy of Singapore, there is no reason to believe it won’t do the same for Japan.
What Will the Jurisdiction Be?
Japanese integrated casinos will be locally licensed by the government itself. This appears to be a model adopted from countries such as Italy, France, and the UK that regulate their own markets. The Japanese license will come at a high price too; 30% of the gaming tax will have to be paid to the government. It might seem a lot more strict than how it is in the rest of the world, but the only way to convince the population in Japan that gambling should be legal was to promise it will be tightly regulated. Therefore, any casinos to try and conquer the newly open market will have to be prepared for regulations and strict procedures.
The Law Will Treat Locals and Tourists Differently
Seeing how gambling is nothing new to the Western population, Japan decided to let tourists play all they want without any additional fees or regulations. A privilege local population still won’t enjoy.
To explain, if you’re a citizen of Japan, you will get to visit a casino only 3 times per week and 10 times per month overall. With that comes the entrance fee that amounts to 6,000 yen, which equals to around 50 USD. This is a safety measure to control what Japanese fear the most; gambling addiction. With this, the government hopes to keep gambling in its local population under control, without the consequences it brings. Perhaps this directive will be changed in the future if the ruling bodies estimate there is no danger of the new addiction putting down its roots inside the country.
Also, the new gambling laws in Japan will allow the population to borrow money from the casinos. Consequently, it is left to see whether this proves to be dangerous and if it might nullify all the rules the country has set in order to protect the nation from this form of addiction.
Cities That Will Witness the Opening of the First Casinos
A couple of cities in Japan are already set and ready to build the new resorts:
- Tomakomai (located on the island of Hokkaido)
Once they meet all the standards, the casinos will be granted with licenses valid for up to 10 years. This is another important clause in the new gambling law, according to which the first three licenses issued by local governments will be valid for 10 years, and each one after that for 5 years. With this, Japan made sure that casinos will continuously need to meet requirements and fully abide by the law. In spite of all the injunction, major international casinos still cannot wait to enter the Japanese market and take part in the estimated revenue.
What About Online Casinos in Japan?
It’s still not safe to say. Currently, there’s no mention of online casinos that would be licensed by Japan, but it does seem logical it’s only a matter of time. Once Japan realizes how much it can earn from land-based casinos alone, it is imminent online casinos will follow.
Who Is Entering the Market?
Mainly Las Vegas casino operators. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, etc. However, the competition is expected to be tough, as American casinos definitely won’t be dominating the new market. Malaysian-based Genting Group is showing great interest too.
Of course, this is the local market, and Japanese companies will have their fair share of it. A couple of well-known names are in the game too, such as Sega Sammy Holdings and Konami Holdings; well-established brands in the entertainment industry. It is evident that all the biggest players in the gambling industry are fully aware of the size and the importance of the freshest market in the world, as of this year.
Here Are the Estimates
Japan is a country loved by many, which is evident from the fact that it hosted nearly 30 million tourists in 2018 alone. A well-known investment bank Gold Sachs believes the Japanese gambling market will bring around $15 billion after the resorts have been opened. With Macau’s revenue of approximately $37 billion, this would make Japan second country with the highest gambling revenue in the world. This is quite amazing news for the world’s third strongest economy.
The New Law Might Change Japan Completely
To many, it may seem this is but a simple law that concerns gamblers and large corporations only. However, it may change the views of the Japanese nation from the core. Pachinko games finally won’t be in the gray zone of the law, and the perception towards Korean-Japanese might change as well. Most of the Pachinko parlors are operated by the immigrants who escaped from Korea after the WW2. The new law might just ease out their integration into society. In the end, the government is fully confident that things can only change for the better, the economy will be even stronger, and Japan will finally embrace the status of the world’s most modern country.