Short Guide on Betting in Japan


Most Japanese will be very well acquainted with these rules, but foreigners coming into the country will be surprised that most gambling is banned in a country with such a large number of gamblers. Betting in Japan is only allowed in certain cases, and those can get quite popular.

There are eight forms of betting that doesn’t fall under the criminal code directly:

  1. Horse racing

  2. Bicycle racing

  3. Boat racing

  4. Car racing

  5. Football betting (soccer)

  6. Mahjong bets

  7. Pachinko

  8. Online gambling

For foreigners, it is easy to be drawn to a shady unlisted venue that pretends to be a casino. Getting caught in such a place will garner some very hefty fines, and you might lose your job in the country and be deported if on a working visa.

Additionally, due to the Japanese’s very dismissive relationship with foreigners, you might be chosen as the fall guy for the entire operation, especially if your Japanese is not up to speed.

Thankfully, accessing online betting and gaming sites is perfectly possible and legal in Japan, as you are not technically gambling in the country. Websites like are available even without a VPN and work seamlessly with Japanese banks.

Rules for Thee

Japan presents itself as a very orderly country. And, in many ways, they are. Rules are strict and interpersonal relationships have a lot of little queues that you would need to follow.

But, same as every other country, Japan is full of people, and humans like having fun. That is why there are a lot of places where you can find things that are not strictly speaking legal, but that are still enjoyed by a lot of natives.

Regardless, as a foreigner, you will be at a much higher risk of being exposed or reported for any wrongdoing. That is why you should avoid any type of illicit activities, no matter how tempting they might sound.

Betting or Races

Betting on races, especially horse races, is one of the biggest gambling markets in Japan. Only recently as Western online gaming operators are offering translation is digital betting and gambling surpassing in popularity.

Also, races and betting stations on them are one of the few places in Japan where people will be happy to see a foreigner, probably believing that you have money to burn. You will have no issues making a bet, even if you are trying to do so in English.

But, take care that this type of betting can cost quite a bit. Most circuits will allow bets as low as 100 Yen, which is about a US dollar, but some off-track betting facilities will ask up to 10.000 Yen per bet.


Pachinko is a type of machine that now looks very similar to what we might expect in a Western casino. You pull a pinball and try to launch a ball in a specific socket that wins a prize.

While there is a theoretical skill component in the game, it is mostly similar to a slot machine. And, with a high degree of decoration it resembles some popular online slot games. Watching the ball bounce around before falling is very exciting and very addictive.

And, similar to slots, because the buy-in is very low: often as low as 1 Yen per game. You are expected to pull a lot of times before finding the right spot that will win you a prize.

Although, even if it seems similar, RTP on pachinko is much lower than on any digital slot machine and closer to the 75% that was on the first spinners.

Online Betting

There are currently no official Japanese online betting operators. Still, this type of gambling is allowed as the provider is not inside the country. This makes things like sports betting and live casino games very popular because it is the only option for some sports.

Also, online betting on soccer and races give a lot more options than regular bets, enticing an increasing number of players to try their luck.