All Japanese online casinos are currently headquartered overseas and out of reach of local authorities due to various anti-gambling laws. The government prohibits most forms of gambling outside a few exceptions for the lottery, a limited form of sports betting for certain racing sports and toto betting on J-League matches.
Legislation passed near the end of 2016 officially legalized brick-and-mortar casinos in Japan. It will be several years before the first casinos break ground, but it is just a matter of time as the laws have officially gone into effect.
Online gambling is outlawed and there is no means by which online casinos in Japan can earn licenses for legal status. However, the government does not attempt to prevent locals from visiting casino sites hosted overseas and playing for real money. As a result, many people choose to visit foreign casino sites that are licensed in other jurisdictions.
The best online casinos that accept Japanese customers include:
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Of these three, Bet366 is our most highly recommend as they support Japanese yen deposits. After you sign up for an account, you can visit the cashier to transfer money via credit card, debit card, prepaid card, bank transfer and cheque. Once they accept your deposit, they will hold it for you in either USD, EUR or GBP. Then, when you’re done gambling, they will perform a currency exchange and send your winnings back to you in the form of yen.
Play Real Money Pachinko Online
Pachinko is a difficult game to find online, but WilliamHill.com offers real money pachinko. It works just like a traditional pachinko machine with balls being launched from the top of the game and then cascading down to either land uselessly at the bottom or into the open chucker.
Every time a ball lands in the open chucker, you win four balls and one spin of the reels in the middle of the slot. If the slots land to give you three of the same number in a row (vertically down the center or diagonally in either direction), it starts a mini-game in which you can win up to 1500 balls. Each ball comes with a value that you determine when you start the game.
William Hill also offers pachinko in its “games” section. You can visit William Hill Casino, click on the “games” tab at the top and then look for the game simply called Pachinko. At the beginning of each game, you select the value of each ball and then send them flying from the top of the machine.
You win additional balls whenever the ones you shoot from the top land in one of the buckets. Every time a ball lands in the top-middle bucket, it activates the slot reels in the middle of the game. If all three land on the same symbol, you earn even more balls. You can then cash them out for instant winnings or continue playing with the balls you have just won.
Japanese Casino Laws
Chapter XXIII of the Japanese Penal Code calls for a fine of up to 500,000 yen for anyone caught participating in illegal gambling. The punishment increases to imprisonment of up to three years for anyone deemed to be a “habitual gambler.”
These laws appear harsh on paper, but Japanese authorities have so far neglected to target those who gamble online. To date, we are unable to find a single news report of someone being arrested for visiting any of the Japanese online casinos that operate out of foreign nations.
The Penal Code also calls for punishments of those who operate illegal gambling games. If someone is found to be running a “place for gambling or organizes a group of habitual gamblers” faces an imprisonment sentence ranging from three months to five years.
International casino sites are keen to penetrate the Japanese gambling market despite these unfavourable laws due to the Japanese people being known as prolific gamblers. Although it remains anyone’s guess as to the true potential of the Japanese online casino market, all we have to do is consider the prevalence of pachinko to see there is most definitely a lot of untapped potential.
For those unfamiliar with the game, pachinko is sort of like a combination pinball / slot machine in which balls are dropped in to the top of the machine, and then fall downwards through a field of pins that serve to bump the balls left and right at random. As a player, your hope is to see the balls land in special collection points and win prizes. Those prizes can then be redeemed at a separate facility for real money.
Pachinko manages to escape Japan’s anti-gambling laws by issuing “prizes,” but in the end, pachinko is a form of gambling. At last count, there were some 14,000 pachinko parlors in operation across the Japanese landscape to create an industry that generates yearly revenues in the range of 19 trillion yen or $175 billion.
Brick and Mortar Casinos in Japan
There have been multiple attempts to legalize real-world gambling in Japan since 2012, but those efforts were stymied for years by opposition from anti-gambling groups. However, recent changes in the law have set Japan down the path of legal casino gambling.
The legislation made its way through both houses in December of 2016 and immediately took effect. The law will allow local governments to submit applications for casinos sites with the central government ultimately designated where casinos may be built. That law also called for the creation of additional legislation to address regulation of casinos and measures to address gambling addiction.
The pro-casino legislation made its way through the Japanese legal system despite low levels of support among the population. According to one poll, 44% of those surveyed were opposed to casinos, just 12% supported the measure and the rest were undecided. Even so, the legislation was pushed through to become law.
International investors have been salivating over the thought of building brick-and-mortar casinos in Japan for years now. CLSA estimates that if the government were to rescind the band on traditional gambling, the Japanese casino market would be worth $40 billion to make it the largest gambling market in the world – bigger even than Macau and Las Vegas combined.
MGM Resorts has already expressed its desire to build a mega-resort in Japan should the company be granted rights to expand into Japan. The MGM CEO even went on record to say they would be interested in investing as much as $9.5 billion on building a new resort casino in Japan if that does indeed happen.
These discussions so far revolve around brick-and-mortar casinos with no mention of Japanese online casinos receiving similar treatment. Even so, the typical trend we see with legalization is for a country to first legalize real-world gambling before eventually doing the same with online gambling.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.