Take a stroll down the busiest thoroughfares of Japan’s most populated city, Tokyo, and you will find more forms of entertainment to throw your money at than you probably ever knew existed. But of all of them, there’s one particularly prevalent recreation that you won’t find, and that’s a casino. Such gambling amusements are 100% illegal in Japan.
Slot Machines, or Pachislos (a combination of the words Pachinko and Slots) as they’re called in the Land of the Rising Sun, are considered gambling devices. Pachinko is also considered a gambling game, but so long as the prizes offered by pachinko/pachislo parlors are classified as merchandise, and do not include actual money, it’s okay to operate such a parlor. And chances are, if you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ve at least heard of pachinko, if not given it a whirl yourself. Pachinko parlors are everywhere! And in all honesty, they do pay cash, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Genuine slot machines, or poker machines as we know them in Australia, are still fairly knew to Japanese culture, and are generally found within pachinko parlors, often overshadowed by the abundance of half-pinball/half-slot pachinko machines. However, they are starting to catch on, and it’s got a lot to do with the way they are regulated. Japanese slot machines have better payout percentages than they do in most other countries. In fact, the payout percentages on pachislo slot machines in Japan range between 90% and 160%, and the use of strategy is plausible due to the national standards set forth by the government. Of course, the majority of slots are set to the lower end of the spectrum, while a select few are set to pay higher in order to make sure someone is always winning, thereby keeping losing players in the parlor to generate a profit.
National Standards for Slots Machine Laws in Japan
There are several different varieties of pachislo slot machines found throughout Japan, but they all abide by strict guidelines set forth in the national standard.
-A pachilso machine may only contain exactly 3 reels
-A button must be supplied for each individual reel that the player may press to stop it
-Reels may not exceed 80 revolutions per minute when spinning
-From the moment the button is pressed, a reel must come to a full stop within 0.19 seconds (nor more than 4 symbols)
-A maximum of 15 coins can be paid out per spin
-The credit meter may not exceed 50
-Max bet is limited to 3 coins
Due to some these manufacturing restrictions, players can actually apply strategy and increase their chances of winning by watching the reels closely and timing out their button presses. It’s believed that by using proper timing, and playing the higher paying machines, a slots’ payout percentage can increase to as high as 200% in Japan. It should also be noted that, even though the max payout is 15 coins per play, the regulatory guidelines have a Big Bonus and Regular Bonus clause wherein the 15 coin payout can repeat itself multiple times while the player watches a movie-like bonus screen display.
Cashing in on Slot Machine Winnings in Japan
As I’ve already stated, gambling on slot machines is illegal in Japan. However, if you’re not playing ‘for real money’, it becomes an entertaining pastime. In fact, the gaming parlors in Japan look very similar to an arcade in other countries, except that the clientele must be 18 or older to play the Japanese slots.
Due to the gambling restrictions, when a player wins, they are not given money, but rather something that can be turned in for a prize. Pachinko machines, for instance, award the metallic pinball like balls that are used to play the game. Dedicated players may walk away with buckets of these balls, and the attendants are always on hand, at the press of a button, to supply additional buckets when needed.
When done, the player takes all their balls to the counter. They are poured into a counting machine that spits out a ticket. That ticket can then be exchanged for merchandise, everything from cigarettes and alcohol to novelty toys and DVDs. Or better yet, you can exchange them for Gold Cards, marked with the TUC logo, then walk out of the gaming parlor and down the street where you will surely find a TUC Shop nearby. Here you can exchange the gold cards for cash.
There are an estimated 4 million gaming machines across 17,000 pachinko/pachislo parlors all over Japan, and they are all conducting business in this manner. The local law enforcement is well aware of it, and despite the fact that gambling really is taking place, they make no effort to put a stop to it. These unique slots are big money business for the country, and so long as no other laws are being broken in the process (such as tax evasion) it’s not a big deal.
If one were to be arrested for gambling illegally in Japan, Chapter XXIII of the Japanese Penal Code, entitled ‘Crimes Related to Gambling and Lotteries’, imposes a penalty of no more than 500,000 Yen (approx. $5,400 AUD) upon “a person who gambles” (Article 185), or up to 3 years imprisonment with work for “a person who habitually gambles”, and anywhere from 3 months to 5 years imprisonment with work for “a person who, for the purpose of profit, runs a place for gambling or organizes a group of habitual gamblers” (Article 186).
Online Slot Machine Laws in Japan
Only regulated forms of gambling – lottery, toto, horse racing, public racing sports and various forms of vehicular races – are legal in Japan. Every other form of gambling that is not specifically regulated and authorized is, by default, classified as illegal gambling. As such, online slot machines are also considered to be illegal.