As of 2019, gambling in Japan is very well legal — or at least in theory. To be exact, there are still no physical casinos and licenses, but this will all be settled soon.
A Whole New World
Gambling in Japan has been illegal for over a century due to a law that dates back to 1907. Not much had changed until 2016 when the Parliament passed the new ‘Integrated Resort Promotion Law.’ According to it, the gambling ban shall be lifted, and the construction of physical casinos can commence. However, these casinos will only be parts of resorts, so it’s best not to expect Tokyo to become the Asian Las Vegas.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced that by legalizing gambling, Japan’s economy would begin to strive once again. Additionally, it will confirm Japan’s spot as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Overall, it is expected that casino gambling will help Japan in more ways than just one.
Similarities to Hong Kong and South Korea
This new law that Japan passed is very similar to those of Hong Kong and South Korea — or at least, it’s a combination of both. Japan and Hong Kong never had issues with sports betting and horse racing, so their laws are quite similar. On the other hand, Singapore and South Korea legalized gambling quite some time ago. Similarly to Japan, casinos in these countries are also integrated. Moreover, casino operators have high standards to fulfill if they want to obtain a gambling license in any of these countries.
Who Are the Newcomers?
A lot of casinos are competing for their spot in this newly opened market. The estimates of the economic impact gambling will have on Japan are bringing in all the big players. Casinos from Las Vegas already announced their arrival — MGM Resorts International is trying to reserve a spot. Next to it, Las Vegas Sands Corp plans to bring in the competition as well. Both of these casinos are major players in the USA, so there’s no doubt they will do their best in Japan.
Sheldon Adelson, the founder of Las Vegas Corp, is pushing very hard to get a Japanese gambling license. Moreover, many sources claim that president Donald Trump is also trying to help Sheldon, although it’s unsure just how he can do that.
Next to the American casinos, Genting Group from Malaysia is also showing major interest in the Japanese gambling industry. However, it is definite that the Japanese brands will have the upper hand and will probably obtain licenses first. Sega Sammy Holdings and Konami Holdings will probably be the first to open integrated casinos successfully. After all, the Japanese population is traditionally familiar with both of these brands. Additionally, Sega and Konami entered the Western market as early as the 80s and 90s. They produced some of the best games and consoles in the world— luckily enough, they are not strangers to the gambling industry either.
The Nation’s Concerns
Given how the Japanese traditionally connect gambling to something illegal and criminal, changing this mindset might be difficult. What people seem to fear most is the potential rise of gambling addiction among the nation. That’s why the Democratic Party suggested a couple of precautionary measures. The government and the parliament believe that these measures could prevent any potential problems.
Mainly, the local population will be allowed to visit casinos only 10 times per month. Additionally, entering a casino will come at a fee of 6,000 Yen, which is approximately $50. Also, the JRA (Japanese Racing Association) plans to join the battle against addictions too. It will allow families of addicts to ban them from online horse racing.
No need to worry though, none of these rules apply to the foreign visitors — feel free to gamble as much as you wish (but please, make it responsible though).
How Will They Get the Licenses?
This is probably the trickiest part — Japan will locally license all the casinos within its borders. This means that a casino must have a Japanese gambling license if it wants to operate. The licensing committee will probably be formed this year, hopefully before the month of September.
Local governments will be the license issuers, and the first license will be valid for 10 years. After this period passes, all the casinos will need to get a new license that will last for a different time period.
Pack Your Bags!
Although some politicians have high ambitions that first casinos might open for the Olympic Games, it probably won’t be the case. Many sources claim that the casinos won’t be ready to operate before 2025. But don’t let this discourage you though — you can still visit Japan and gamble in one of the famous Pachinko parlors. If you visit now, you will get to see Japan in its pre, and post-gambling period. Have a safe trip!