Japanese Gambling laws could be shaken up to legalize gambling and control it. Currently the serious gamblers go underground where it is controlled by the mobsters.

Japanese Gambling Laws

Japanese Gambling LawsGambling is largely banned in Japan with a few exceptions, betting is allowed on some sports. Japanese Government revenue is mostly generated from the state controlled Lottery and Toto which is a form of  sports betting.

Gambling laws  are controlled by Criminal Code Chapter 23 which covers public sports, lottery, pachinko, illegal gambling and casinos.

Sports Betting

By law, Japanese people are allowed to gamble on horse racing, bicycle racing, powerboat racing and motor cycle speedway racing. Bets can be placed at racing circuits or ticket kiosks in all the major cities of Japan. These forms of sport gambling are regulated by special gambling laws for local governments and governmental corporations. The prize pools for sport gambling are typically up to 80% of the bets wagered. The rest goes to the Government.


The Lotteries or Takarakuji as they are known are run by local governments. Participation in Lotteries is legal in Japan. Tickets can be purchased from Takarakuji kiosks, retail stores and ATM’s on a regular basis throughout the year. Scratch cards may also be purchased. Japanese laws state that at least 50% of the total stake must be paid to local government organisations and charities.


Pachinko is a national obsession in Japan, it is legal but it is also strictly controlled. Japanese gambling laws regard Pachinko as an exception to the criminal code for cultural and historic reasons. Pachinko is a pinball like slot machine and they can be found in amusement arcades all over Japan. Operated by private companies there are more than twelve thousand amusement arcades in Japan.

The object of the game is to manoeuvre the ball into a designated hole to win more balls. The balls can be redeemed for prizes within the amusement arcade. One of the strange things about Japanese gambling laws is that you can also redeem the balls for a gold token. The token can then be redeemed for cash in a local shop, normally next door. Strangely these shops are normally owned by the amusement arcade operator and in this case, providing cash payouts is legal. Ironically, that is because it does not take place in the amusement arcade. This open loophole in the law is being heavily exploited by Japanese gambling operators.

Illegal Gambling

Illegal gambling does take place in Japan. The Yakusa, or mobsters as we would call them control it amongst other organised crimes. The Yakusa operate illegal casinos, mahjong parlours and other illegal gambling operations throughout Japan.


Whilst casinos are illegal in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party have been trying to promote them to help boost tourism. To date there have been many arguments against introducing casinos. The main reason for the opposition is the fear of gambling addiction.

The idea of having floating casinos outside of territorial waters has also been proposed. Understandably, there is still much debate about legalizing casinos. Shintaro Ishihara, the previous Governor of Tokyo is arguing strongly for the changing Japanese gambling laws to permit casinos.


Japanese gambling controls are being flouted by mobsters and there are obvious flaws in gambling laws. Understandably the government decided is was time for a review of Japanese gambling law review in order to control it better and provide a growing revenue stream for the government. The review resulted in a new gambling bill being put to the vote. Read more.

Update: On 15th December 2016 Japan enacted a bill to legalise casino gambling throughout Japan.

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