Many people outside of Japan think of the culture there as somewhat structured and rigid. This is neither a bad nor a good perception, but merely how a lot of outsiders perceive things. Japan has a reputation as a diligent, disciplined culture, and part of this in recent years has been that gambling has – for the most part – been illegal in the country. You certainly won’t go to Japan and find rows of casinos, or popular gambling rings anywhere in public. However, there are some noteworthy exceptions that have for years foreshadowed the eventual spread of larger scale gambling in the country.
One such exception is Pachinko, which is basically a variation on slot machines, and is a very popular form of entertainment in Japan. Pachinko is illuminated in some detail at The World, and has clearly provided something of a cultural loophole for gambling enthusiasts. At Pachinko facilities, players basically buy tokens to gamble with, and can only hope to win more tokens. However, these tokens can then be sold for real money, meaning they essentially function as poker chips.
Another exception is Keiba, which is, quite simply, horse racing. Horse racing is an extraordinarily popular gambling sport all over the world, in various cultures. For example, if you take a look at the Betfair online casino, which has a sports gambling section that covers every major sport, it’s the horse racing feature that’s front and center. For whatever reason, Japan – which discourages most every type of public gambling – allows a legal, if very strictly regulated, horse gambling scene.
Because activities like Pachinko and Keiba have kept a gambling spirit alive in Japan, the country is now being viewed as perhaps the next major international hub for casinos, and it is beginning to seem likely that an explosion in gambling activity is imminent.
With other eastern countries and regions from massive gambling hubs like Macau and Singapore, to growing gambling communities like the Philippines taking strides to dominate the international gambling scene, it seems only natural that Japan has major potential. Nobody is saying that a 2nd Bellagio is about to open up in Tokyo, or that Singapore’s resorts can be replicated overnight – but as mentioned at the Japan Times, the wheels are in motion to allow gambling resorts. In fact, the final legal steps may be completed later this year, in which case we could see the gambling scene in Japan boom significantly in the coming years.