Betting in Japan

For the biggest part of history, Japan and gambling didn’t go hand in hand. As we wait for the first casinos to open, there’s still a chance to get familiar with some of the legal betting games in this country.

Public Sports Betting

Gambling is probably as old as humanity — our ancestors invented it first. Some of the oldest card and dice games emerged in ancient China. Other games, such as Roulette, first came to be during the Roman and Greek empires. Roman and Greek soldiers gambled by putting a shield on the ground and spinning it to get certain awards.

What is more, sports betting probably existed as long as animals did. Romans loved to gamble on horse racing, among other things. Moreover, betting on the Gladiators was quite popular. So if you thought betting on dog fights was merciless, try betting on human lives instead. All jokes aside, in one way or another, people always liked taking risks. The adrenaline rush is something not many can resist — regardless if it’s a modern man or an ancient Greek soldier.

How Do Japanese Bet?

The Japanese never liked to gamble — or maybe they did, but the emperors never allowed it. Generally, the Japanese rulers weren’t very fond of any form of gambling. Yet somehow, they never considered sports betting as such. Even nowadays, this nation loves bicycle and horse racing. Japanese punters also like boat and powerboat racing, which could be a reason why the government never banned any of these. The Japanese also often take part in J-league soccer pools. This is a famous sport in most Asian countries, and Japan is no exception.

As far as online casinos go, you can’t find any in Japan — there are only bookmakers. However, one is allowed to bet online from Japan. So if you’re a Japanese citizen, you can log into one of the many online casinos and gamble. However, the biggest issue here is that you need to make sure a casino has a good reputation first. Online gambling in Japan is banned just like land-based gambling — so there’s no local authority you can turn to in case you don’t receive your winnings. Luckily, all this will change very soon, considering Japan finally legalized gambling in 2016.

Pachinko Parlors

Pachinko is an old game that dates all the way back to the 1920s. The first electronic Pachinko emerged during the 1970s and is still immensely popular throughout the whole country. Pachinko is basically a hybrid of slots and pinball. Even though its purpose is to offer a gambling experience, that’s not how Japan sees it. The prizes that you win in Pachinko are not monetary — you can win clothes, candy, or jewelry. Japan earns billions of dollars annually only from this machine. Additionally, Pachinko parlors can be found all over the country — there are thousands of them. Furthermore, there are even some betting sites that let you try Pachinko online. Perhaps you could use some practice before you try testing your luck somewhere in Tokyo?

The Lotteries


In addition to sports betting, lotteries are one more gambling hobby that Japan never banned. The country offers a couple of lottery games to its citizens, and each one brings different prizes — some offer more money than others. Additionally, knowing how to speak the Japanese language won’t be of much help if you wish to participate in any of them. Only the country’s residents are allowed to take part in one of the following lotteries.

  • Scratch Cards
  • Number 3
  • Number 4
  • Lotto 6
  • Lotto 7
  • Mini Lotto
  • Jumbo Lottery
  • Nenmatsu Jumbo Takarakuji (the one with the biggest award)

The Hanafuda Cards

This is a very old card game that even the Japanese emperors loved to play. Most historians believe that Hanafuda cards are a Japanese take on regular Western cards. They are not numerical, and there are 12 suits. Each suit represents a different month of the year, and on each month, there’s a flower or a tree that symbolizes it. Hanafuda cards even exist in South Korea and Hawaii, although these nations don’t use them for gambling. In South Korea, they take on the role of a family game, while in Japan, people play Hanafuda mostly for fun. The only ones who use these cards for gambling are members of the notorious Yakuza clan.

Hanafuda game

Japan in 2019

There’s a high possibility that Hanafuda cards will soon become a gambling game though. In 2016, the government passed a law that would finally lift the ban on gambling. As of 2019, casino establishments in Japan are officially allowed, but only as parts of resorts. Hopefully, by 2025, a lot of cities in Japan will legally offer betting to tourists.

Additionally, local governments will issue gambling licenses to the new casinos, and they should last up to 10 years. After this period, the casinos will have to renew them. Some of the most reputable American resorts are already competing for a spot in the market. The residents of Japan can expect the MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands to open their first casinos very soon. What is more, there are also reports that Malaysian casinos are interested in this new market as well. Most importantly though, two of Japan’s most reputable brands are also coming to the scene — Sega and Konami. With all these giants in the game, gamblers can expect a plethora of offers.

Time to Visit Japan

If you’ve always wanted to visit Japan but have never had the opportunity to do so, this might be the right time. Soon enough, the country will be packed with tourists who will want to visit both casinos and Pachinko parlors. So if you wish to get a taste of Japan before it gets too crowded, now is the right time to do so. Have fun!

One thought on “Betting in Japan”

  1. There are also many sports newspapers that offer local odds analyses of horses from Japan participating in international races. And the Japanese public loves it.

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