Japan has no physical casinos at the present moment — the soonest you can expect them is in 2025. This doesn’t mean you can’t gamble in case you visit — Japan has a lot of distinctive types of gambling. Moreover, there are games that you can’t find anywhere else in the world but here — such as Pachinko.
Tokyo — a City of Entertainment
Even though Tokyo will get its own casino very soon, that doesn’t mean it will become the new Las Vegas. For tourists, Tokyo is a city of fun — it offers plenty of activities, and one week simply isn’t enough to experience everything. But if you’re an enthusiastic gambler in Tokyo, where do you go if you wish to bet? No need to worry, there may not be any brick and mortars just yet, but Tokyo can offer something even better than that.
Horse racing, or Keiba as the Japanese call it, is quite a profitable business in this country. In Fuchu, which is a neighbourhood in the Western part of the city, there is a Tokyo Racecourse. This is one of the rare places in Tokyo where you can gamble legally. The JRA (Japan Racing Association) is in charge of it, and they even organize the so-called Japan Cup. Attending this cup is a hobby for most of Japan’s residents, and the prizes are enormous. Participants usually compete for up to $5.6 million, or 648,000,000 Yen. Additionally, this racecourse has a cafe where only women are allowed. Here, they can learn all about horse racing in an incredibly comfortable environment. There are even cakes and bagels shaped like horses — it can’t get any cuter than that.
The Japanese call this type of racing ‘Keirin,’ and believe it or not, it is a sport that found its way to the Olympics. You may not know it by this name, but it is usually a race where you can see cyclists going after a motorbike.
Japanese love to bet on bicycle racing, and this form of gambling became so popular that it turned into a sport eventually. Women were allowed to compete from 1949 to 1964 — until they were banned. In 2012 they were readmitted, and now they compete separately from their male counterparts. If you wish to bet on bicycle racing in Tokyo, you should visit Tokyo Oval Keiokaku. You’ll be able to find this establishment in Chofu, and you can take part in the night races. Take note that this happens during the sunset, so the atmosphere is quite amazing.
Additionally, you won’t find that many tourists here, so you can actually feel the domestic Japanese atmosphere.
Pachinko resembles slot machines — many even believe they are hybrids of slots and pinball. You can find Pachinko parlors in every corner of Tokyo City. This is probably the favorite form of gambling for a lot of Japanese citizens. If you win at Pachinko, your prize won’t be money. It will probably be candies, jewelry, or clothes. You get prizes if the small metal balls get into the pockets. Once you finish, you have to exchange these balls for awards. These parlors generally offer a wonderful atmosphere, just try not to get hooked — Pachinko addiction is a legitimate problem in Japan.
There Will Be Casinos Soon
In 2016, the government of Japan passed the Integrated Resorts Act. According to this law, Japan will finally allow casinos in its territory. A couple of cities have already applied for casinos within their borders;
Some of these cities made a clear decision that they want a casino, while others are still more or less indecisive. There will probably be a Tokyo casino in the near future — the officials believe it will attract more tourists and create additional job opportunities.
For now, forty local governments will not apply. Moreover, they deny any possibilities of a casino within their territories. They are mostly concerned about citizens going into debt and the potential gambling addiction. Traditionally, the Japanese are not overly fond of gambling, so this doesn’t come as a big surprise. The parliament did leave it up to local governments to allow and license any potential casinos.
Hold Your Horses
If you’re excited about casino gambling in Japan, you might need to have more patience. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, with all these gambling opportunities, you’re guaranteed to have a lot of fun. You’ll be one of the few people who could actually say that they witnessed Japan both during the pre, and the post gambling era.