Amid coming casino influx, Japan seeks limits on popular pachinko machines

  • Japan’s National Police Agency proposes a cap on maximum winnings from pachinko machines
  • The new regulations are expected to help reduce rates of harm but may hurt the already ailing pachinko gaming sector

Plans by the authorities in Japan to reduce the maximum allowable winnings for pachinko machines are said to be in high gear.

Pachinko is the Japanese equivalent of slot machines, and even more popular.
Pachinko is the Japanese equivalent of slot machines, and even more popular.

Pachinko is a kind of cross between a pinball and a regular video slot terminal, beloved by Japanese gamblers.

The new proposal by the National Police Agency (NPA) is said to include a recommendation to reduce pachinko gambling machine payouts from the current rate of ¥100,000 ($877) to under ¥50,000 ($400) for every four-hour playing period.

This move is part of the government’s efforts to stem the high amounts wagered that is said to be on the rise in the country. Also, in the next few years the country is expected to welcome its first casinos and big efforts are being made by authorities to show their commitment to responsible gambling.

In a figure that amazes most people who hear it for the first time – Japan’s pachinko industry was worth $203 billion in 2015, a figure that is not far off the $240 US casino industry worth as a whole.

The NPA is also said to be considering imposing the same new rules for slot machines.

Streamlining the industry

Apart from just imposing new regulations the NPA also intends to create a transparent appraisal process for entertainment businesses by subjecting them to public scrutiny before they are are formalized. The new draft proposal also recommends a 33% reduction of pachinko balls that players can win over a four hour span. If this happens, the maximum amount of balls generated for a jackpot would reduce from 2,400 to 1,500.

The NPA also wants managers of pachinko parlors to train their employees to be able to identify players who may display signs of gambling problems. According to Japan Times, reports from the non-profit organization Recovery Support Network reveal that close to 70% of individuals who sought advice regarding gambling addiction were enthusiasts of pachinko.

Pachinko on downward trend?

The latest news on the proposed new regulations has dealt yet another blow to the pachinko sector which was already experiencing a slowdown.

During the peak years in the mid 1990s Japan had close to 20,000 pachinko parlors which is a far cry from the 11,000 that exist today. Although many may blame the decline in numbers on the payout caps, analysts say that the younger generation is just not as interested in pachinko as a recreational pastime in an echo of the much reported millennial apathy with traditional casino games in the West.

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