Gambling Laws & Regulations in Japan (2021)

By  //  October 4, 2021

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Japan, unlike China, is not a gambling haven. Most forms of gambling are illegal, and it is stated so in the country’s criminal code. Does this mean one cannot gamble in there? 

It depends. Some forms of gambling are allowed, like horseracing and lottery. Today, we will explore this side of Japan and help you understand its gambling laws and regulations. 

There Are Casinos in Japan

In 2016, Japan approved a bill that promotes gambling in specified resort areas. Now, companies can apply for a gambling license and build physical casinos. Casinos are now legal in the country, provided that the company has a license.  

Based on current events, the first casinos would open in 2021 but only for approved resorts. Also, there are many restrictions, including admissions and the fee that people have to pay when visiting these places. 

Horse Betting and Lottery Are Popular

While many forms of gambling are illegal, horse betting is regulated. It is a big industry in the country, and those who love betting on the race have huge pools to choose from.

Many horses that win in international derbies are imported to Japan. One example is Sunday Silence, an American-bred horse that was sold to Japan. The horse sired others from 1995 to 2008. The offspring of these imported horses now comprise the racehorses in the country. Most of them become champions themselves and have celebrity status.

Japanese also love lotteries. There are many shops and kiosks that sell lottery tickets. The sales are managed by city governments. The income from gambling is used for government projects. Most tickets cost between 100 and 500 yen. If one is lucky, he/she could win a prize to the tune of 100 million yen.

Apart from the lottery, people in Japan also love scratch cards. The thing is that, unlike other countries, only 50% of the lottery earnings are given back to those who wagered. The other half goes to government expenses.

Online Gambling Is Illegal

There are websites like Vulkanvegas.com where people from Japan can create an account and gamble. These online gambling sites are called offshore gambling providers because they are not in Japan. 

A Japanese person who is in Japan is not allowed to bet online, even from a legal online casino that has a license from another country. In the eyes of Japanese authorities, this behaviour qualifies as participating in Black Market gambling. 

While the country cannot take legal action against the casino, it can imprison the gambler. This law, however, does not prevent people from gambling online.

It is hard for the government to track those who participate. Those who are brave enough use VPN services to prevent getting tracked. It is also not uncommon to use anonymous transactions, such as bitcoins, to make sure that their gambling activities cannot be traced.

In-person gambling, however, is a different story. If a Japanese citizen goes to Macau or Las Vegas to gamble, it is not illegal. The reason being is that the person is physically in a country where gambling is legal. 

It Will Take Some Time for Gambling to Be Common

Overall, the outlook for the gambling scene in Japan is that it will take some time before it catches up with the world. Japan is really slow in embracing gambling as a form of pastime. 

Over the years, it has relaxed some of its views on gambling. There are lotteries and horseracing events in the country, but they are far from having lavish casino resorts. Sports betting is also out of the question. 

Changes are happening, though, and people see a slow shift in the view of Japanese leaders. The legalization of many forms of gambling in Japan is on the horizon, but it will take some time to get there. 

If things ever change drastically, Japan is going to be home to many gambling events, including eSports. It is expected, as Japan is a keystone in the gaming industry.

Gambling in Japan is a murky legal situation. Generally speaking, it is illegal to operate a gambling institution without a license from the Japanese government. It is also illegal for Japanese citizens to gamble online from websites that are not physically operating in Japan.

Those who violate these laws face serious consequences of imprisonment and/or fines. However, there is a contention as to whether online gambling is really illegal or not. Many people do it. Only time will tell if Japan would relax its laws to allow offshore casinos to operate legally in Japan.