Simon’s Guide to Gambling in Japan

Picture of Tokyo, Japan's capital city. Some forms of gambling are legal in Japan.

Guide to Gambling in Japan


Japan is an island country in East Asia. Japan lies in the Pacific Ocean and is located east of China, South Korea, and Russia. Japan is known as the “Land of the Rising Sun” as its name means “sun-origin”. Japan’s population is roughly 127 million. The country’ capital and largest city is Tokyo with almost 38 million citizens in its metropolitan area. Japan is a constitutional monarchy but the emperor’s power is very limited and mostly ceremonial.

Japan was isolated from the world throughout its early history until the US navy visited the country in the mid-19th century. Japan then adopted western politics, judicial and military institutions effectively becoming a world power in the process. The early 20th century, Japan participated in the first World War on the winning side further establishing the country’s influence and territorial holdings. Before the broke out of World War II, Japan signed a pact with Nazi Germany becoming one of the Axis Powers. During World War II, Japan carried out surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor and on the British forces in Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. However, due to the Russian invasion and the devastating nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender. The Allied occupation of Japan ended in 1952 and the country was granted membership to the United Nations in 1956. Since then, Japan experienced a rapid economic growth becoming one of the biggest economies of the world.

Gambling is generally banned in Japan by the Criminal Code but with a few exceptions.* Some legal forms of gambling are betting on horse races, certain motorsports, pachinko, mahjong or participating in the national lottery. That’s all, though, so there aren’t any legally operating casinos in the country offering the most popular games like blackjack, roulette, or poker to name a few. However, there is a significant underground gambling circle in Japan operated by the infamous criminal organization, the Yakuza. Online gambling is illegal too but players are not prosecuted and the government does not ban offshore online casinos either.


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*The Penal Code of Japan






Casino gambling in Japan


Online casino gambling in Japan: illegal, players are not prosecuted


Gambling is illegal in Japan with a few exceptions. The classic casino games are forbidden like blackjack, roulette or poker. Therefore, there aren’t any legally operating casinos in Japan. However, the illegal gambling business controlled by the Yakuza is booming in the country. Online gambling is illegal too but players are not prosecuted and the government does not block foreign online casinos. Numerous offshore online casinos accept players from Japan.



Bingo in Japan


Online bingo in Japan: illegal, players are not prosecuted


Bingo is a very popular game around the world, especially in the US. Unfortunately, unlike the lottery and some form of sports betting, bingo is illegal in Japan. Therefore, there aren’t any land-based bingo halls operating in the country. Online gambling is illegal too, but players are not prosecuted if they decide to play some bingo in an offshore online casino. Many foreign online casinos accept players from Japan.



Poker in Japan


Online poker in Japan: illegal, players are not prosecuted


Poker is quite possible the most popular and widely known casino game ever created. The main reasons behind its ever growing popularity are the constant television broadcasts, regularly held world championships, and the game’s competitive nature. Many would argue that poker requires more skill than luck but in nature, it still counts as a form of gambling as it is mostly played in casinos around the world. Despite its huge popularity, poker is illegal in Japan along with most forms of gambling. Online gambling is illegal too, but the government does not block foreign gambling websites so Japanese players are able to play poker at numerous offshore online casinos. Players are not prosecuted either.


Sports betting in Japan


Online sports betting in Japan: state monopoly


Sports betting is one of the most popular forms of gambling out there. In Japan, only a couple type of sports betting allowed like betting on horse races, motorboat races, or betting on motorcycle races. Online gambling is illegal but players are not prosecuted if they decide to bet on their favorite sports at an offshore online bookmaker.



Lottery in Japan


Online lottery in Japan: state monopoly


Arguably, the lottery is the most common form of gambling around the world. It is safe to say that where gambling is legal there is a national lottery. Gambling is mostly illegal in Japan but there is a lottery operated by the state-owned company called Takarakuji. The company offers a wide range of different games like Loto 7, Loto 6, or Mini Loto amongst others.* The lottery is one of the few forms of gambling allowed to conduct online. However, the lottery is a state monopoly so playing online only allowed on the lottery’s official website. Players are not prosecuted if they play at an offshore online casino, though.





Bitcoin gambling in Japan


Bitcoin gambling in Japan: illegal, players are not prosecuted


Bitcoin is a digital currency often referred to as a “cryptocurrency” invented in 2008. People still debate about who exactly invented the currency under the Satoshi Nakamoto moniker. The currency quickly became popular after its introduction worldwide as an alternative mean of payment. Bitcoin gambling appeared shortly after the introduction of the currency and continues to grow in popularity as more and more online casinos started to specialize in it. However, Bitcoin is still a relatively new phenomenon so only just a handful of countries issued laws concerning it. Bitcoin trades mostly occur via the internet so it technically falls into the online gambling genre which is illegal in Japan. The Japanese government did not issue any specific laws concerning Bitcoin gambling or Bitcoin in general as of now, though.



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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling activities in every country around the world.


Last updated: 2016.02.04.

Simon's Guide to Gambling in Japan
Article Name
Simon's Guide to Gambling in Japan
An overview of gambling's legal status in Japan.

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