Is Gambling Really Illegal in Japan?

  • Gambling is a hobby of many and an addiction for some. As a native to the beautiful desert land of Las Vegas, Nevada, land of the some of the greatest casino/resorts in the world, I am well accustomed to the exciting, and sometimes seedy world of gambling. For me, seeing craps tables and slots in airports and even convenience stores is not strange at all. I am much more surprised when gambling is illegal, like in Japan…Or is it?

    Is Gambling Really Illegal?

    Technically, with the exception of public sports (horse racing etc.), and the lottery, any form of gambling is illegal in Japan, but there are several loopholes that allow many companies to get around those laws. For example, pachinko parlors for years have gotten around these laws by awarding winners with “prizes” instead of money, and those prizes can be exchanged for money at a different place.

    But in the last year, a new form of casino has arisen in different parts of Japan. Many are available in the downtown Osaka area called Namba. This area is easily reachable by the Osaka subway system.

    Casino Restaurants/Bars

    Casino restaurants or bars are new types of bars that have come about in the last few years. They have a new style of gambling that stays legal but keeps all the fun of gambling. It is massively popular with both native Japanese and foreigners alike.

    In these bars, you can play a smorgasbord of games; poker, baccarat, roulette, and many more. The fun of gambling is that you risk some for a great reward, and you risk it with the excitement of an audience. Casino bars have managed to maintain this spirit while obeying the law.

    How Do They Get Away With It?

    Casino bars stay on the legal side by maintaining three rules; you can’t gamble for money, an amusement business cannot run all night, and prizes cannot be exchanged for money or goods directly.

    One particularly popular bar in Osaka, Jack & Queen Osaka, charges you an entry fee and with that entry fee, you get free food and drink coupons, and a set value of chips. As you play and receive more chips you can exchange those chips for more food and drink coupons. Thus maintaining the thrill and fun of gambling at a casino, but doing it legally.

    Have you seen one of these casino bars before? Would you ever want to go and experience this legal version of gambling?

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