Though gambling in Japan is widely considered illegal, it in fact has many gambling opportunities. They include the popular pachinko, the lottery, football pools and four public sport games – horse racing, bicycle racing, powerboat racing and motor racing.
Typical casino table games remain illegal however there is currently a vendor selection process underway to establish three Integrated Resorts (also known as mega casinos) in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama. These mega casinos are expected to be operating by 2025 with the vision of becoming major tourist attractions and local entertainment hubs. Once open, table games, poker and other casino games will be legal for the public.
Online casino games technically are illegal in Japan, however authorities often turn a blind eye to players but NOT the operators.
Accordingly, there are offshore based online casino providers that accept Japanese players. Being offshore places these operators outside of the Japanese law.
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We have compiled our recommended list by researching and playing at thousands of online casinos. In particular we have found that for Japanese players, most of the casinos on offer are honest and trustworthy (unlike online casinos for other countries).
We have therefore compiled our list on the following three criteria:
- Game Selection
- Customer Service
Game Selection – Online gaming is far superior than land based with the variety of game selection on offer. The casinos that we have chosen, all offer the common table casino games that you will find at any world class casino. In addition you will find that many will also offer the niche games such as Pai Gow Poker, Casino Wars, Sic Bo. In addition, the number of slot themes, story lines is immense. All at the convenience of being at several online casinos. Unlike the land based casinos, it is so easy to find your favourites.
Customer Service – There will be time when you will need Customer Support. All the casinos that we recommend offer Customer Service and is usually 24/7. All will have email, and some will have chat services and even a phone line.
Bonuses – Real money bonuses is what many players are looking for, and we have searched and reviewed far and wide for the best bonuses for Japanese players. Our list recommends the best online casinos with the best bonuses, but we also balance it out with the Game Selection and Customer Service.
Each Player is different in what they are looking for. Review our list and selection an online casino which you feel will suit you best. You can’t go wrong, because we have vetted all of them, and only put forward those you can completely trust, and rank well for Game Selection, Customer Service and Bonuses.
Gambling Laws in Japan
At GambleDex, we do not present ourselves to be international law experts, but we can summarize our findings of gambling laws for Online Casino gambling as followings.
Japan has legislated a Criminal Code Act which declares most forms of gambling illegal. Online Casino gambling is included as a game that is illegal and the law clearly references operating an online casino or any form of online gambling to be illegal. In the past, there has been precedence of an online gambling operator being caught and fined by law enforcement agencies for accepting wagers for the game “rock-paper-scissors”. No Player was fined, penalized or charged for breaching the criminal act. Only the operator who was held to be responsible.
Knowing that is it the operator of an online casino that bears the onus of abiding by the law, many online casinos that accept Japanese players are therefore based offshore. Several billions of Yen are wagered each year at online casinos by Japanese players, with no implications.
In 2019, Japanese players wagered over 29.6 billion Yen at offshore online casinos. This is a huge amount!
There are two questions to consider in knowing these facts:
1. Can offshore Japanese online casinos be trusted?
Often new players ask whether offshore online casinos can be trusted. At the advent of the internet many online casinos were formed with very little or no regulation. And as is common to any new innovation, without proper controls and regulations in place, there were some online casinos that were a scam. In today’s world, you will find that nearly all offshore online casinos are regulated in the countries of where they are based. Compliance is enforce by the regulators and in particular for UK online casinos Know Your Customer requirements must be adhered to. There are many offshore online casinos which are honest, trustworthy and reliable. This indicative of the large number of Japanese players continuing to play at online casinos.
2. Is it legal to play at Japanese online casinos?
The question of legality for players is also often asked. Japanese players are technically breaking that law when playing online casino games.
However, there is very little risk.
To this day, there has been no precedence of any Japanese player being charged with a criminal act. Again, the fact that Japanese players continue to play at online casinos is indicative of low risk (or even no risk).
By a clear margin, Pachinko (also known as Pachi-slots) is the most popular gambling option in Japan. Pachinko is a very easy game to play, and has many variations.
In 2019, 19,820 billion yen was wagered by Japanese players!
Pachinko is a game that is extremely similar to the Vegas slot machines. Balls run down railings and if they land in a particular slot, it will trigger reels to turn. If the reels result in a winning combination an avalanche of balls will be rewarded to the player. The player can then reload the balls back to the top of the pachinko machine and attempt to win more balls. There are thousands of pachinko parlours that are spread across Japan.
Tokens won by playing pachinko can be exchanged for prizes. However they cannot be exchanged for cash on premise at the parlour, as this would be a breach of the law. To overcome the law restrictions, tokens are permitted to be exchanged for cash outside of the parlour in an adjacent cashier booth.
Fast forward to the year 2025, and tourists and locals will have the ability to enter into one of the mega Japanese casino’s located in Osaka, Tokyo or Yokohama. Also known as an Integrated Casino, they provide a holistic entertainment hub – luxurious and glamorous, such they are able to complete with the Macau and Las Vegas casinos.
In fact, this mega casino is all encompassing and offers so much more than your average casino. As part of the complex, there are shopping malls, theaters, theme parks, entertainment centers, restaurants, pubs and clubs and hotel accommodation.
In addition to the recreational activities, throw in as well the business meeting rooms, conferences and exhibition centers. Everything will be at the finger tips.
Walk in and it is clean and safe, and has a customer experience unlike any casino around the world. The Japanese are famous for their hospitality and customer service, and it shows through at this mega casino.
This vision painted in the previous paragraphs, is one that is being put to tender in 2020. It was only recently in 2018, that gambling laws in Japan were amended to allow for casinos, paving the way for the Integrated Casino. Confined to three prefectures only – Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama – each prefecture is permitted to establish one Integrated Casino.
As can be expected, there are many consortiums that are jockeying for first place in the race for winning the bid. Big names, such as Wynn Resorts, MGM Grand, Melco and Genting are all putting their hands up. The market is valued at over $18 billion USD, hence these are huge opportunities that these gambling consortiums are not wanting to miss.