The Current Situation of Gambling in Japan

In Japan, gambling is a popular pastime. People can gamble in casinos, at race tracks, and on various other gambling platforms. Despite its widespread popularity, the Japanese government has been slow to legalise gambling. This has led to several problems for the country's casino industry.

The birds eye view of Tokyo.
Photo by Louie Martinez on Unsplash

So, in this blog post, we will take a closer look at the current situation of gambling in Japan. We will also explore some of the reasons why the government has been reluctant to legalise gambling. Finally, we will offer our thoughts on how the situation could improve in the future.

Has Gambling Always Been Illegal in Japan?

The current state of gambling in Japan is interesting, but what’s more interesting is the history of gambling in Japan. Many might be surprised to learn that gambling has not always been illegal. In the 8th century, the first record of gambling was the of Emperor Tenmu, who played a dice game very similar to backgammon. Gambling during this era was legal, and due to the popularity of betting on horse races and cockfights, professional gamblers emerged, and with that, so did crimes.

As a result, laws were created from 1225 to 1284 to prohibit gambling. It was only until 1718 that laws differentiated between light and heavy betting; light betting was legal, as long as bets under 50 mon were made. Finally, in 1907, gambling as a whole was made illegal due to the rise of addiction the country was facing.

Because of this interesting history with gambling, many people ask whether or not casinos are legal in Japan. This isn’t exactly a yes or no question, but the short answer is that physical casinos are not legal in Japan. However, in 2018, an act was passed that allowed specific licensed institutions to run casinos in designated locations.

This is because of a new development: integrated resorts, which are planned to boost tourism in Japan. To learn more, you can read EVA 500 Shinkansen article about casino resort in Japan. However, what can be said is that these resorts will have casinos, as well as theatres, shopping malls, aquariums, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Citizens in Japan can expect strict laws regarding locals visiting the casinos. However, tourists will have unlimited access. These resorts have been planned to be built by 2023 at the earliest and 2025 at the latest. Many are also wondering if these integrated resorts will pave the way for smaller licensed casinos to open up, but looking at the current state of things, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Now that you are more aware of the current state of casinos in Japan, you might be wondering if online casinos are legal or not. Online casinos are very popular amongst Japanese gamblers, even though there aren’t any online casinos in Japan. This is also a grey area for many Japanese citizens since there is no specific legislation regarding online casinos. However, the law states that any form of gambling, other than the legal forms, is illegal, which would pertain to online casinos, too.

The Prime Minister of Japan actually said that even if half of the act of gambling was committed in Japan, it’s illegal. In other words, if Japanese citizens were to access online casinos hosted in another country, it’s still illegal. This hasn’t stopped online casinos from accepting Japanese players, however.

Available Gambling Options in Japan

Finally, just because casinos are illegal in Japan and online gambling is prohibited doesn’t mean all forms of gambling are illegal. There are many popular forms of legal gambling in Japan, such as horse race betting, powerboat betting, motorcycle race betting, bicycle race betting, soccer betting, and more.

One important thing to note, however, is that the quality of these activities is lower than that of the same activities in other countries. For example, in terms of horse race betting, the pedigree of horses is much lower than that of the pedigrees in England. By limiting the quality of the betting, the government hopes to reduce the potential addiction associated with it.