Japan’s ‘pachinko problem’ could be a big issue in new casino legalization plans

  • $203 billion Pachinko industry has high problem gambling rate
  • New study could negatively impact legal casino plans

Japan’s plans to introduce legal casino gambling could face further hurdles after the extent of the nation’s pachinko problem was revealed in a new study, reports the South China Morning Post.

Problem Gambling rules in Japan could encompass the existing $200 billion pachinko industry, as well as the incoming casino boom.
Pachinko is already a problem for 900,000 in Japan, without the addition of land-based casinos.

Up to 900,000 Japanese residents are thought to have some form of pachinko gambling addiction – adding weight to fears that legal casino gambling would cause a massive spike in problem gambling rates.

Earlier this year, authorities in Japan announced plans to reduce the maximum bet and payout rates in pachinko, in an effort to reduce the high rates of addiction which are currently being see among players.

What is Pachinko?

Pachinko is a popular Japanese game which is similar to a slot machine, but also feels a bit like pinball.

Players receive a number of small balls, which are released into the machine and which fall, bounce and jump their way around the series of traps, holes and barricades.

If certain points are hit or if a ball makes it to the bottom of the course, the player gets a reward of more pachinko balls or gets to replay their existing ones.

Balls can also be lost if they fall down holes in the course. Some machines also have a slot machine element, where certain targets active spinning reels which can produce additional prizes.

At the end of play, remaining balls are exchanged for prizes at the nearby pachinko exchange.

Legal gambling plans push forward

The main barrier to legal casino play in Japan has been public opinion, with residents of the nation fiercely opposed to previous attempts at introducing casinos.

However, there is huge demand for legal casinos from the many tourists who visit Japan, and from global businesses who want to invest in new markets.

The revenue from casino games would be a boost to the state, and some officials hope that Japan could build itself a successful gaming market like that in Macau.

The Japanese government has given tentative approval to plans for integrated resorts – casino, hotel and entertainment complexes – in major cities Tokyo, Okinawa and Yokohama.

Casino investors have already expressed interest in this potentially massive market, though many are holding off until the finer details are worked out before they commit to any large-scale investment.

The number of licenses issued is expected to be small at first, and there will be some restrictions on games being offered. Residents might also be limited in how and when they can use the casinos.

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