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Gambling Laws and IR in Japan the Things You Should Absolutely Know (2020)

First and foremost, you need to understand the basic gambling laws covered by the Japanese government. Under chapter XXIII of the Japanese Penal Code, gambling is within a large list of banned activities. With severe punishments (it may reach imprisonment) for people who intrude with the law.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule, lotteries, betting, and pachinko, which are considered as “Legal” with a verity of restrictions bound to them.

Casinos in Japan

Casino gambling is a hot topic in Japan currently; as we know, gambling is prohibited. However, the government is moving forward to legalize casinos. Opening casinos will enhance, via boosting tourism, the already skyrocketing Japanese economy. So if you’re a casino owner, or you want to invest in a casino, this is good news for you!

However, this is only one piece of the pie, back in 2016; the Japanese government introduced a law so-called “IR law”, or the Japanese Casino Bill, which eventually will make casinos legal, with some, if not many, limitations.

Lotteries in Japan

Like the rest of the world, is a common casual gambling way to see. Lotteries whether played at the ATM, or cards you can purchase from the nearest convenience store you find, are under the Japanese Lottery Law (also known as Takarakuji Law)

The Takarakuji law stipulates: 12 specially designed cities can maintain a lottery, and the prize to be less than 50% of sales, the rest goes for the government and charity organizations. Tickets are obtainable in many cities.

For none Japanese-residents, in some countries they claim your winnings as taxable income, so be aware of that!


More precisely sports betting, in Japan, is a bit different from the rest of the world. Sports betting is subjugated to an entirely different set of rules, you can bet on the following races:

  • Motorcycle races

  • Horse races

  • Bicycle races

  • Motorboat races

Betting could be the “Go to” in terms of return; it is much more lucrative than lotteries.


It is difficult to miss pachinko parlors (they’re the closest thing to casinos that exist in Japan) scattered in the Japanese cities. Essentially, pachinko machines are the Japanese version of “Slot machines.”

It works just like a regular slot machine, you insert money then you have your metal pinballs, it is a bit different from the regular pinball style game, but still, it is similar to it.

When you win, however, you don’t get paid with money; this is due to the strict Japanese gambling laws. Instead, you get vouchers, which you can exchange for goods.

What is The IR Law? Everything You Need to Know

The term IR simply stands for “Integrated Resort,” it is a law that conducts the process of establishing resort facilities such as, entertainment complexes, tourist facilities, and of course casinos!

This means, conducted gaming activities ran by licensed casino business operators, within IR, are considered legal. However, the following online casino games are still prohibited:

  • Poker

  • Bingo

  • Slot and casino table games (such as Blackjack, and Roulette)

Also, betting is only made through a ground-based form. However, keep in mind that betting is done via the internet. Seems paradoxical but this is how it works!

Lenience Restrictions & Regulations

Casinos are legalized only within IR areas, which also needs the warranty of the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport to implement in an IR area.

The IR law segregates Japan into three IR areas, the maximum number of IR areas is three (the number will be reviewed after seven years after the initial certification) each IR area should have only one casino, so limited right? A legalized casino operator runs each casino.

There are no obstructions in terms of nationality to own a casino and become a casino business operator. The sole requirement is to have permission from the Casino Supervising Commission, often called “the Commission.”

Regulations to Keep in Mind

There are a set of regulations, and rules, conducting casinos and IR third parties, see below:

  • Every facility provider must gain a license from the Casino Supervising Commission if it rents or manages casino complexes for casino operators

  • Every landowner, of IR lands, must gain a permission form the Casino Supervising Commission if he/she decides to sell or rent his land to a casino business operator

  • The rent of casino facilities should have concurred in a fixed amount.

Casino business operators should sign contracts with only who satisfies the IR criteria (for instance social credibility) the main reason behind this criterion is to deter anti-social forces and maintain the casino operator integrity. Therefore, every casino business operator should gain the Commission’s permission if he/she like to enter:

  • Contacts within a casino area (IR area)

  • Contracts for fundraising

  • Rental contracts ( for casino facilities and lands)

  • Contracts whose terms go beyond the given interval in the rules of the Commission

The same laws apply to IR landowners and facility providers.

Furthermore, the casino business operator needs to obey a set of internal laws, yes more laws to follow, see the following:

  • The terms of use (of the casino facility)

  • Anti-money laundering rules

  • Method of business operation rules

  • Anti-problem gambling rules

It may seem tedious at first, but at the end rules like this conduct and save people, and the government, from a large set of conundrums.

The IR law is restricted in many faces; it has a multitude of pros and cons. However, it is better than nothing, with this law casinos are going to be legal institutions.

FAQ Gambling & Laws

Is the IR law on its way soon?

The answer is unfortunately no. Simply because of the current Covid-19 pandemic, lawmakers are busy offering guidance on how to deal with it. (According to Sankei Shimbun media)

Are there any limitations for costumers?

The IR law does strict costumers, the weekly visit rate to a casino shouldn’t surpass 3 times a week. (10 times in a month)

Can foreigners gamble in Japan?

Yes of course! None Japanese residents should prove their identity first, however. You can prove your identity via passport, or any other forms of ID such as a driver's license.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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