Online gambling in Japan, similar to other asian countries, is a huge legal grey area. There are blanket laws banning most types of physical gambling in Japan, as mentioned in chapter 23 of the Japanese criminal code (quoted below), but online gambling in Japan generally goes unchallenged by the government and there is no public records or major cases where people have been prosecuted for betting, wagering or playing casino games online.
Article 185. (Gambling)
A person who gambles shall be punished by a fine of not more than 500,000 yen or a petty fine; provided, however, that the same shall not apply to a person who bets a thing which is provided for momentary entertainment.
Since 1907, however, exceptions have been made allowing gambling on horse racing, bicycle races, motorbike and various other motorsports. Games such as pachinko, mahjong, toto and the lottery – all built around the thrill of a gamble – are classified as ‘amusements’ and as such fall under separate laws from casinos, sports bookies, bingo operators and poker houses.
Due to these restrictions, it is not uncommon to see Japanese citizens traveling to Macau casinos to gamble, just as you do Chinese and Taiwanese citizens.
Is Online Gambling Illegal In Japan According To Law?
Online gambling in Japan is illegal, just as physical gambling is illegal. No licenses have been granted to companies allowing them to operate online gambling websites from within Japan, and the government actively tries to prevent its citizens from accessing and using foreign gambling websites.
Japanese players gamble online regardless, and IntenseGambling.com provides you with the information you need to get your gambling fix, whatever country you’re in!
Best Online Casinos For Japanese Players
Our #1 online Japanese casino choice, 32Red, accept Japanese Yen (¥) and offer casino games that are playable in Japanese language. 32Red offer the choice between downloading their casino software or playing instantly via your web browser.
They give you a choice of 350+ casino games including Blackjack, Multi Vegas Downtown, Vegas Single Deck, Triple Pocket Hold’em, Hold’em High, Premier Roulette, Craps, Pai Gow Poker & many more. If you sign up now, they are offering a special sign up bonus of ¥2500/$32 for every $20/¥1500 deposited. That means if you deposit $100, you receive a huge $160 bonus! Visit www.32red.com now!
Play Pachinko Online
Pachinko (pronounced puh-ching-koh) is a Japanese pinball game played on vertical machines in which the aim is for the player to try and control where a small steel ball goes using a series of levers. Some Pachinko machines can process up to 100 balls per minute, and the game ends either when the player looses all of their steel balls or the player decides to cash out and turn in their steel balls in exchange for prizes, which range from small widgets such as cigarette lighters to expensive items like computers, electric scooters and bicycles.
As gambling is outlawed in Japan, gamblers often opt to accept nondescript tokens as their prizes, which can be exchanged for cash via unofficial operations outside the legal Pachinko parlors.
There are about 13,000 pachinko parlors in Japan, where you’ll find dozens of pachinko machines crammed closely together and gamers playing for hours on end in very noisy settings.
The owners of IntenseGambling much prefer to play the exciting game of Pachinko online for real money, from the comfort of their kitchen table rather then the bustling, and often overwhelming, Japanese Pachinko parlors.
The best place to play Pachinko online is www.32Red.com casino – who offer the most realistic video Pachinko game we’ve seen anywhere online. The game has 8 different rounds, each with its own features and pay table, and you can cash in after any round or play through to the end, if you dare, for the possibility of huge payouts.
Mobile Casinos In Japan
Mobile casinos let players play their favorite gambling games with them wherever they are, from Pachinko & slots to video poker, blackjack, roulette, or even horse race wagering. Considering how advanced mobile phone technology is in Japan, it is no surprise that they lead the way in terms of gaming technology and gambling options available on the go.
With the Japanese government considering a move to open up its market to casino gambling – online, physical location and mobile – it is very likely that we will see huge advancements in the mobile gaming industry in Japan over the next year. The move is driven by American gambling interests and the success of other casino centers in Asia such as Macau. The Japanese government is trying to put an end to its economic slump by investing in new growth industries such as mobile gaming and casinos.
According to Takeshi Iwaya, lawmaker from the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party, the government claims the new casino ruling will help promote tourism, encourage business, create jobs, and boost local development.
New laws in Japan, alongside the touch screen displays available on new smart phones like the iPhone and Android today are leading to a whole new gameplay experience being introduced, adding a new level of interaction to classic casino games that was not possible just a few years ago. There are multiple Japanese mobile casinos that offer gameplay in either English or Japanese and accept wagers in Japanese Yen (¥) and/or US Dollars ($).
Japan Live Dealer Casinos
There are three universal casino types, land-based which are physical casinos that you can walk into; RNG or Random Number Generator online casinos where the game is created by a computer, as is the spin of the wheel or the cards being dealt and finally, live dealer online casinos that feature a video feed from a real dealer who is dealing cards and performing other casino duties like in a land based casino.
Live dealer casinos that allow players to take part in games like live roulette, live blackjack and live baccarat are in high demand by Japanese gamblers. IntenseGambling.com recommends 32Red for playing live blackjack, baccarat, and roulette from Japan. They accept Japanese Yen (¥) and offer live casino games in Japanese audio, video and text. www.32Red.com offer video feeds from a Microgaming dealer betting room, and if you sign up now they are offering a ¥2500/$32 bonus for every $20/¥1500 deposited. That means if you deposit $100, you receive a $160 bonus!
Japanese Online Horse Racing (Keiba) Betting
21,000+ horse races happen every year in Japan, all are either of the flat racing/traditional type, jump racing (races over hurdles), or Ban’ei/Draft Racing (horses pulling heavily-weighted sleds and jockeys up sand ramps).
Many Japanese horses have been entered in overseas races and foreign horses are increasingly being purchased to compete in Japan, famously brought to light recently when two Japanese-trained horses (Victoire Pisa and Transcend) pulled off an incredible one-two win in the Dubai World Cup in March 2011.
Popular Japanese Race Courses
There are over 30 major horse racing tracks in Japan, all run by the Japan racing association (e.g. Tokyo, Chukyo and Fukushima racecourses) and the National Association Of Racing (e.g. Arao Racecourse, Asahikawa Racecourse and Fukuyama racecourses). Three race tracks in particular are very well known, even in international circles, and are popular venues for online and offline gamblers who like a punt.
Located in Toyoake, Aichi, Japann, this track has a relatively short history after only being constructed in 1994. Chukyo has quickly risen to be the premier venue of the Japan racing scene.
There is two race tracks at Chukyo racecourse, a dirt track and a grass track. The turf track oval has a circumference of 1600 metres. Race distances accommodated at the track include 2800m, 2500m, 2000m, 1800m, 1700m, 1200m, and 1000 metres. The dirt track on the other hand has a circumference of 1418 metres and is able to accommodate races at 1000 metres, 1600 metres, 1700 metres, and 2300 metres.
Noteworthy events held at Chukyo that are worth betting on include:
- Grade I international race Takamatsunomiya Kinen, held annually in March and run over a distance of 1200 metres on turf
- Grade II international race the Tokai Stakes run over a distance of 2300 metres on dirt and held annually in May
- Grade II international Kinko Sho run on turf over 2000 metres each May
- Grade III Chukyo Kinen handicap run over 2000 metres on turf in March
Takamatsunomiya Kinen Betting
Perhaps the most popular of all races taking place at Chukyo, with the best odds available, is the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (高松宮記念), a Grade 1 horse race held over a distance of 1200 meters (approximately 6 furlongs) and reserved for three-year-old and above thoroughbreds. The race is held annually in March and never has any problems attracting thousands of punters, both Japanese and foreign.
With the huge prize money purse of ¥202,350,000, this race attracts many of the best jockeys and trainers from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States and has huge appeal with online betters worldwide.
The extremely popular Nakayama Racecourse venue is located in Funabashi, Chiba, Japan. Built in 1990, Nakayama features a dirt track, a jumps track, and two turf tracks. Some of the more notable races held at Nakayama Racecourse include:
- Grade I Sprinters Stakes held in September/October, run over a distance of 1200 metres on turf
- Arima Kinen held in December run over 2500 metres on turf
- Grade II Nakayama Kinen held in February or March annually over 1800 metres on turf
- Grade II Nikkei Sho held in March over 2500 metres on turf
- All Comers in September over 2200 metres on turf
- the JPN II American Jockey Club Cup in January over 2200 metres on turf
Are Superior Horse Racing Odds Available In Japan?
In a word, yes. Foreign betting markets like those available in Japan are offering superior odds to Australian, European/UK & other western markets. Online betters are all ready starting to see huge benefits from placing wagers on events within the horse racing Japan market. Take the races held at the Chukyo Racecourse each year, particularly the Takamatsunomiya Kinen held annually in March and the Tokai Stakes in May, both races that have seen huge international punter and online gambling interest.
Real Money Japanese Poker Websites
While poker is illegal in Japan (there are no physical poker rooms or casinos anywhere in Japan, and all card/table games are banned), poker games do take place inside illegal, underground casinos often run by the Yakuza.
Online poker is an even stranger legal grey area in Japan, the government does not use IP filtering or firewalls like Thailand and China to block it’s inhabitants from gambling online. Online Poker tournaments occur very regularly in Japan as well, with Everest Poker hosting events like the Everest Poker Japan Cup. Some of the european poker sites have been known to block players trying to connect from Japanese IP’s however, but all in all connecting to and playing poker online in Japan for real money is relatively easy compared to other Asian nations.
I have personally used the following poker sites in Japan to play for real money: Full Tilt, Poker Stars, Titan, Victor Chandler, CDpoker, Party poker, Everest and Pokerroom. In all cases I used neteller for my transactions. The pre-paid neteller card works for pretty much all of my withdrawl and online shopping needs. Issue arise, however, when making deposits.
Withdrawing & Depositing Money
No japanese credit cards will work when making deposits on gambling websites (neteller included) as the major Japanese banks block them. This is easily bypassed by using Pokerstars and the Local bank transfer option. You can put money into your pokerstars account using this bank transfer option, and if you decide to deposit cash on another site, withdraw it through Neteller and deposit it where ever you like.
The government in Japan is currently discussing the 100% legalization of land-based casinos (follow the IntenseGambling.com blog for international gambling news and insight), which is likely to mean that Japanese players will soon find it a lot easier to play online poker for real money.
Best Online Japanese Sportsbooks & Betting Sites
Race betting – including bicycle, horse, boat, and motorcycle racing – is one of the few legal forms of gambling in all of Japan. Horse racing (covered above) is of course the most popular.
Professional J-League football betting is also legally possible in Japan as part of the national lottery system, entitled Toto. Toto is not quite like fixed-odds sports betting that online and western sportsbooks usually offer, it is more comparable to a standard lottery that uses results from football matches. Toto wagers can be made online.
There are no legal online sportsbooks in Japan, so Japanese gamblers are forced to use foreign sports betting sites to place wagers. IntenseGambling has personally used and recommends the sportsbooks listed below, all of the websites listed accept sports bets in Japanese Yen (¥) and we have included notes on the websites various language options available.
#1 – Pinnacle Sports: Pinnacle are best known for their industry leading odds, extremely high betting limits, and fast payouts. Pinnacle offer some of the best betting odds for cricket, rugby, golf, tennis, hockey and many American sports – try comparing them to other betting sites and 9 times out of ten this will be the case. Their website is available in many languages including 日本語 (Japanese) and they accept bets in Japanese Yen via Webmoney or EntroPay as well as the typical credit cards, Neteller, Moneybookers and bank transfers. Pinnacle Sports Bookmaker Review
Japanese Fighting & MMA Betting
Fighting is huge in Japan, and as such there are several major fighting organizations, some mixed martial arts (MMA) based and some more focused on specific fight styles:
- DREAM: a mixed martial arts (MMA) organization promoted by former PRIDE FC executives and K-1 promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group.
- Pancrase: MMA promotion company founded in Japan by professional wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki.
- Shooto: a MMA organization governed by the Shooto Association and the International Shooto Commission
- Fighting Network Rings (trademarked RINGS): a Japanese revived mixed martial arts promotion.
- DEEP: a second-tier MMA promotion run by Shigeru Saeki, former Public Relations Director of Pride Fighting Championships
- JEWELS: a MMA organization focused on female fighters. It’s the direct successor of Smackgirl, a now-defunct female MMA promotion.
- ZST: a Japan-based promoting and sanctioning organization of MMA who hold amateur, gloves optional, fight events.
Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball Betting
Baseball has been the most popular league sport in Japan for decades. Professional nation-wide teams have been present in Japan since 1934 and the national league was established in 1936.
There are two leagues in Nippon Professional Baseball that punters can bet on: the Pacific and the Central Leagues, both leagues with six teams each.
NPL Central League Team Betting
- Chunichi Dragons from Nagoya
- Hanshin Tigers from Nishinomiya
- Yokohama BayStars from Yokohama
- Hiroshima Toyo Carp from Hiroshima
- Tokyo Yakult Swallows from Tokyo
- Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo
NPL Pacific League Team Betting
- Orix Buffaloes from Osaka
- Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks from Fukuoka
- Chiba Lotte Marines from Chiba
- Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters from Sapporo
- Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from Sendai
- Saitama Seibu Lions from Tokorozawa
A typical NPL baseball season lasts from April through to October, with a total of 144 games played. Both the central and pacific leagues have their own championships and those winning teams compete in the Japan Championship Series, a seven-game championship that airs in October-November.
The Japan Championship Series doesn’t affect the participating teams’ rankings, much like the American world series.