Japan is an old country with an even older culture. Each coming dynasty enacted new laws, and people continually had to adapt to these changes. Gambling in Japan is legal as of 2016, but what lead to this decision?
The Long Battle Against Gambling
Being so developed and hi-tech, the fact that Japan legalized gambling only in 2016 is surprising. What most people are not aware of is that the Japanese dislike gambling for traditional and cultural reasons. In the past, many dynasties did their best to give gambling a bad name. Moreover, it was crucial that people began to view betting as something they should look down at.
Who Brought Gambling Games to Japan?
For the biggest part of its history, Japan didn’t open its borders to foreigners. The only time it did so was when it traded with the Spanish and Dutch. It was these Western traders who introduced card games to Japan. Now, apart from card games, Japan’s neighbor, China, introduced this country with many variations of dice games.
According to many historians, Emperor Tenmu was the first ruler who seriously gambled in Japan, in 673 A.D. The ancient Japanese loved Tenmu — he was a good inventor and a great strategist. Tenmu’s favorite dice game was ‘Hakugi,’ which the Japanese imported from China and adapted to its rules. Although it was a gambling game in China, it wasn’t so in Japan. The emperor and the people around him didn’t play for money — instead, the prize was either fine clothes or expensive jewelry.
Heian Period and Nara Period
During these two periods, the ruling class generally allowed gambling. The nobles and emperors loved playing most of the betting games. Most importantly of all, it was during this period that people invented sports betting. Mentioning this is essential as this form of betting hasn’t been made illegal ever since. What’s more, this is also the time when horse racing emerged, which is the predecessor of motorcycle racing.
Edo Period Brought the End
During this period, the rulers decided to put a stop to gambling. The period started in 1603, and the government back then presented gambling as an atrocious evil. Moreover, it presented gambling in such a way that it brought great dishonor to a family. In old Japan, this was probably one of the biggest crimes a person could possibly commit. To make things worse, gambling was made punishable by death. This was a clear sign that the government took things rather seriously, and that it would do whatever it deemed necessary to stop this great calamity.
Thankfully, the Japanese rebelled against this. They were well aware of the fact that gambling wasn’t a crime big enough to kill a person for it. So the government made a deal with the people — whoever wanted to gamble could do so freely, but they would be completely exempt from the rest of society. And that’s how the ‘bakuchiuchi’ were born. Those were the gamblers who lived separately from ‘katagi’, the ordinary people.
This signified the birth of Japanese repulsiveness towards gambling that lives up to this day.
The Modern Age
In 1907, the Japanese government elected an act that would completely ban gambling. This gambling law prohibited all kinds of casino gambling, and it remained in full power up until 2016. During this year, the parliament enacted the ‘Integrated Resort Promotion Law’ that would lift a 100 years old ban. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, from the Democratic Party, explained how the country’s economy would greatly benefit from this law. Additionally, it will probably reaffirm Japan’s reputation as a famous tourist attraction. Don’t get ahead of yourselves though, this country won’t be able to offer any new casinos before 2025.
How Will It Work?
Although gambling in Japan is officially allowed, the regulations are not quite the same as to those of many Western countries. For the Japanese, gambling won’t come as easily — there will be a special entrance fee. An average Japanese will have to pay to enter a casino, and the price will be 6,000 Yen. This amounts up to about $50. Additionally, their time spent in casinos will be limited to a maximum of 10 times per month. Also, the Japanese Racing Association (JRA) promised to give the families of addicted gamblers the authority to ban them from online horse race betting. These rules are set indefinitely — so nobody can say for sure whether Japan will ever change them.
These rules are in place as a way for the country to stop potential gambling addiction from spreading. It’s worth mentioning that this is the biggest concern the nation has when it comes to gambling. Even though Japan didn’t legalize betting before 2016, per se, there are still Pachinko parlors all over the country. Pachinko is a gaming machine that looks fairly similar to the infamous slot machine. The main difference is that if you win a Pachinko, it won’t bring you any money — you will get candies or clothes instead. This is the primary reason why Pachinko was never banned — it never gave out money; hence why it’s not considered gambling. Unfortunately, Pachinko caused the gambling problem in Japan to skyrocket, so the nation wasn’t all that thrilled when gambling was, in fact, legalized.
The Opening of the Second Biggest Market
The estimates of how much Japan will earn from gambling are quite substantial. Gold Sachs believes Japan will profit over $15 billion annually only from casinos. Although the Japanese won’t be able to gamble so easily, tourists will. If you ever travel to Japan and you wish to gamble in one of the newly opened casinos, nobody will try to stop you.
Here’s an interesting fact — you won’t find any casinos scattered around the many cities of Japan. Casinos will be an integral part of resorts that will have hotels and nightclubs as a part of the establishment. These casino resorts will emerge in cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama. There will probably be a couple more in different locations as well. From a tourist’s point of view, this is quite amazing — you can gamble by taking the elevator to the first floor of your hotel.
Who Will Be the New Casino Operators?
A lot of international casinos have their eye set on Japan as of this year. MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp are only two casinos that are entering this market. Additionally, Genting Group from Malaysia also announced they will be opening a resort in Japan. Sega Sammy Holdings and Konami Holdings, famous Japanese manufacturers, will play an important role in the Japanese gambling industry. Moreover, these are the two brands all the Japanese are familiar with. As far as licenses go, only local governments will issue them. The first license a casino obtains will last for 10 years.
Needless to say that all the big players are coming, and only the best will survive and remain on the market.
It’s Been a Long Journey
But we’re here now! Japan has come quite a long way from a country that once prohibited gambling completely. Today, the estimates are that it will be the second strongest gambling market, after Macau. Some politicians ambitiously believe that the new resorts will open by the time the Olympic Games begin, but this probably won’t happen. Realistically, you probably won’t get to gamble in Japan before 2025.
You can still prepare though — there are hints these resorts will be grandiose and bountiful in their offers. Whether you’re a professional gambler or just someone who casually enjoys gambling, Japan will soon become the ideal destination for you.