Different forms of gambling such as betting, lotto, and casinos are often regulated by strict laws. Some countries are lenient with gambling activities, some allow them under stringent regulations, and then there some countries which have outright banned gambling.
Japan is also one of the countries where gambling is not permitted by the law. However, there are many Pachinko stores in Japan that operate similar to slot machines but are legal to operate in the country.
So what exactly is Pachinko, why is it legal in Japan, and how is it different from regular casinos? These are the questions we will be answering in today’s post so read on till the end.
The Legality of Gambling in Japan
The majority of gambling activities are banned in Japan as per Chapter 23 of the Criminal or Penal Code. That is why operating regular casinos is forbidden in Japan. But there are a few activities that are legal and regulated by special laws, such as betting on horse racing and motorsports as well as Pachinko.
Why Is Pachinko Legal In Japan?
The main reason that Pachinko parlors are legal in Japan is because of the way they operate. As per Japan’s law, any organization that operates games, devices, or entertainment services in exchange for cash rewards fall under the category of gambling. Pachinko parlors have found a way to get around this law.
When playing Pachinko games including Evangelion（エヴァンゲリオン）, players are rewarded with special Pachinko balls by the machine. These balls can only be exchanged for ‘tokens’ in the parlor and not for cash or any form of money. However, the tokens can be exchanged for money at another store which is usually located next to the parlor or in the near vicinity.
The store that exchanged parlor tokens for money is usually owned by the parlor itself, but are portrayed as operating independently through legal loopholes. Since the parlor itself is not offering monetary rewards, their services are technically not considered as a gambling activity.
However, if it’s legally proven that the cash exchange store is operated by the parlor owner themselves, they will be penalized as per the law. Having said that, Pachinko parlors aren’t monitored very strictly in some cases due to their popularity.
How Did Pachinko Become Widely Popular In Japan?
The first Pachinko machine was actually designed as a toy for children during the 1920s. Within a decade, it evolved into a form of entertainment for adults as well and Pachinko parlors came into existence. Its popularity spread throughout the nation mainly during the 1940s.
Gambling in Japan was just as strict back then as it is now, or perhaps even stricter. So the concept of Pachinko parlors was gladly accepted and appreciated by people. That is one of the main reasons for its popularity.
As years passed, Pachinko even gained some cultural significance, and that further boosted its already popular status. Apart from its history and cultural factor, another reason for Pachinko’s popularity is its unique gameplay – pinball-style mechanics combined with certain aspects of slot games. Like most slot machines, the anticipation of winning bigger rewards also kept many players hooked to Pachinko.
How Is Pachinko Different From Normal Casinos?
Pachinko parlors are completely different from casinos. A casino will have an assortment of table games, card games, slots, and more. But a Pachinko parlor is a store where one can play on Pachinko machines including Pachinko CR Aura Battler Dunbine（ ぱちんこCR聖戦士ダンバイン）. Pachinko parlors are sort of similar to Arcade parlors – the ones with jackpot slot machines.
Also, as we’ve already explained, players can’t cash out money at the Pachinko parlor itself whereas, in casinos, they can exchange their chips for cash. So it’s safe to say that Pachinko parlors are different from land-based casinos.
What To Expect If You Visit A Pachinko Parlor?
If you’ve never been to a Pachinko parlor and are eager to know what it feels like, we’ll try to explain it as simply as possible. The first thing you’ll notice about a Pachinko parlor – even before you enter it – is the noise.
The machine creates some noise due to the clanking of balls, and when many machines are running at once, the sound becomes very loud. If you want to have a good time at these parlors, you better get used to the never-ending noisy atmosphere. Consider yourself lucky if you can find a quiet row in one of these parlors.
The moment you enter the parlor, the first thing you’ll see is rows of Pachinko machines. It will be a familiar sight if you’ve visited slot game parlors before. The atmosphere in Pachinko parlors is vibrant and colorful, mainly due to the flashing lights and different colors and designs of the machines.
Apart from the sound and visuals, you will surely notice the crowd in these parlors. It is believed that 1 out of every 10 people in Japan play Pachinko. So popular is the game in Japan that the parlors are crowded most of the time. It will be an extremely rare sight to find a Pachinko parlor that is close to empty during peak hours.
The noise and crowd may have you thinking that it wouldn’t be much fun to visit these parlors. But then, people don’t go there for the ambiance, they go for entertainment. And considering the popularity of Pachinko in Japan, it does seem that Pachinko is a very entertaining game.