lifestyle

Korea’s ban on pachinko gambling sees increase in gamblers coming to Japan

38 Comments
By Andrew Miller

In Japan, pachinko – a game similar to pinball but with multiple balls in play and minus the flippers – has always been a big business. ”Pachinkoten” (dedicated pachinko parlors) have become about as commonplace as temples and hot springs, and it’s not uncommon to see small crowds of men waiting outside such establishments early in the morning, waiting for them to open.

A phenomenon that is particularly noticeable in recent years is that of the large numbers of Koreans coming to Japan to gamble. Up until seven years ago, Korea’s pachinko industry was booming. However, when gambling laws were introduced to combat the recent rise in addictions, many players were left out in the cold with nothing to fill the gap. But with a thriving pachinko scene just a couple of hours away on the plane, many Koreans are heading to Japan to pick up where they left off.

Although gambling in Japan is technically illegal (aside for horse racing and betting on motor sports), there are known loopholes that are routinely exploited, and pachinko parlors are almost always situated right next door to a “separate” business that will happily exchange any pachinko balls won for cash prizes. For this reason, pachinko itself is not seen as gambling in the eyes of the law and parlors are permitted to operate freely, just as how thousands of adult-oriented establishments operate daily despite prostitution (itself a term full of legal loopholes) being illegal.

The married couple that spends 100,000 yen a shot on pachinko.

From the hustle and bustle of a noisy gambling parlor close to Hakata station in Fukuoka, Japan, the distinctive voices of a Korean couple can be heard.

Self-employed Cho Sokun (37) along with his wife (36) watched intently as they waited for the most popular machine in the parlor to become available.

What initially attracted this couple to Japan’s gambling scene was a Korean website promoting pachinko. The couple ended up booking a total of three nights and four days in the country.

“Of course we do a little shopping and dine out at restaurants during our stay, but the main purpose of coming to Japan has undoubtedly got to be the pachinko. In total, we’ve been gambling for about 10 years now. Before the banning of pachinko in our home country, there were times when we visited this type of parlor once a week. This is our second visit to Japan; the first time we came was about two weeks ago.”

On the first day of their second visit to Japan, the couple spent a total of six solid hours in the pachinko parlor. Unfortunately the odds weren’t in their favor, and they ended up parting with 100,000 yen. On the second day, the couple spent a total of four hours gambling, with a loss of 10,000 yen.

Not at all perturbed by such losses, they went on to comment with an air of enthusiasm,

“You find yourself getting lost in the sheer gorgeousness of the Japanese liquid crystal display. We plan on coming back again tomorrow.”

Striking up a conversation with the customers who visited the parlor over a period of two hours, what become evident was that a staggering 10 couples or more were from Korea. Every year, between 3-5 million Koreans visit Fukuoka in Japan. According to one travel agency, an increasing number of Koreans are booking only the flight and hotel room and spending a majority of their vacation on the pinball machines.

In pachinko’s Korean heyday, the country saw over 1,500 pinball parlors come into existence. However, with the rise in new models, which in a given hour gave returns of between $2,600- $3,600, gambling itself became a serious social problem.

One Korean man in his 30s raked up a debt of $92,300 and became so distraught as to how to pay it all back that he ended up committing suicide. Another man who lost $1,300, ended up setting fire to the parlor he gambled at. There have even been cases of students taking their parents’ credit cards without permission and getting into serious debt to fund their habit. What complicates this all the more is the underlying corruption between the political and gambling world.

“Pinball parlors are designed in such a way as to suck the masses dry. If it hadn’t been banned all those years ago, there’s no doubt that the number of casualties would have increased even further,” comments Jonhon, who was a victim of gambling addiction himself and now works for a shipbuilding company in Busan.

Johnon expands on his days of addiction by commenting,

“The majority of pinball parlors were open 24 hours a day. Inside the parlor, there was even a catered meal service and free coffee. I’ve got to admit that at one stage, I didn’t see fresh daylight for three whole days. Needless to say that there was nothing positive to gain from this experience and I only ended up getting into a heap of debt.”

Nowadays Jonhon can be seen participating in a center to help overcome gambling addiction, funded by the Korean government.

Che Isun who runs the center comments: “Pinball parlors have a tendency to drag even those without the slightest connection to gambling, like the aged or women, into a viscous spiral of addiction. Needless to say that one form of gambling often leads to another.”

In present day Korea, it is possible to turn the points one accumulates from gambling into cash at illegal online roulette or card game parlors. Obviously, this only compounds addiction further. Although on the surface, the problem looks as though it has disappeared, the reality is that on the backstreets it is still going strong; it is true to say that black market pinball parlors, run by gangster organizations, still have a significantly large presence.

Of course, cash-carrying foreign visitors to Japan are always welcome, and many are reaping the benefits the recent trends.

One advertising company in Tokyo created a homepage specifically advertising Japanese pachinko to the foreign market. The way the site operates is that firstly it accepts an advertisement fee from prospective pinball parlors wishing to advertise on the site. It then promotes the parlor in a way that is appealing to foreigners. To date, the site has registered a total of 300 parlors. By 2014, the company hopes to increase this number to 1,000.

Of those that visit the site, a whopping 70 percent are from China and Korea. The company director of the site made the following comment:

“By attracting foreign tourists, there is a real hope that the standards of the pachinko industry can be raised.”

In 2007, even Japan saw a restriction in use of specific pinball machines that carry a high level of addiction. What’s more, in 2011 and 2012, machines that were fixed in such a way so as to pay out large sums of money, or altered to make winning easier, were also made illegal.

Influenced to some degree by the restrictions mentioned above, Japan’s total revenue from pachinko parlors in 2011 dropped by two thirds when compared to those in play in 1995. The number of stores have also been decreased by two thirds.

According to the late professor Hiromasa Ishii from Keio University, who carried out a survey into national gambling addiction, the total percentage of males that showed an abnormal addiction was 9.6%. The total percentage of females showing the same signs was 1.6%.

What’s important is looking at initiatives to eliminate further addiction.

Professor Takiguchi, from Otani University, who is a specialist in sociology, gave the following views on the whole gambling dilemma: “Looking at just how much employment it creates, wiping out Japan’s pachinko completely would not be an easy feat. However, about 80% of the gambling addicts that go to self-help groups are victims of the pinball or slot machines. The environment and given circumstances are quite different to the casinos abroad; when it comes to the casinos, the amount one can spend is fixed from the outset and exceeding this sum means being unable to continue further. What’s more there are even cases in which customers who visit too often are cautioned by members of staff. I truly feel that this type of hands-on approach is a realistic strategy in minimizing the problem of gambling addiction.”

Source: Asahi Digital

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Asahi Newspaper Worker Helps His Company by Punching Out Pachinko Machine -- 3 Bizarre Part-time Jobs in Japan -- iPhone iOS6 Map Takes Our Reporter on a Quest for the Pachinko Gundam Train Station

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38 Comments
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Close the pachinkos here to ..... that would save on a lot of leccy and would also deal a big blow to the LDP.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Oh my, I hope that it doesn't get any worst here...I don't quite understand as to how many pachinko parlors there are over here as well. They not only consume too much electriiciity. Plus another thing I can't understand is the advertisement that is announced in loudspeakers driving around the main streets and in school zones..then there are announcements in the bus as well..it's like if you were a teenager, you would wonder and be curious, then you try to check it out, and by the time you know, you're hook with the game and you're skipping classes and you've become a full pledge gambler lulling around the doors of the pachinko early in the morning waiting for it to open.... This are the results that the government don't see. Create a nice clean environment and you will get nice results....with some efforts put together, why not? This advertisements lure and tempt the young ones all in all. They should ban pachinko all the way..or at least have designated places for it and lessen the centers. Another in my bucket of dreams.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I've seen shuffling graveyard people standing in lines for these places to open. It makes me sick that the only new things being built are pachinko gambling meccas. The big ones in rural areas demand so much space too. Surely something better can be done with the land they occupy ?

3 ( +5 / -3 )

“By attracting foreign tourists, there is a real hope that the standards of the pachinko industry can be raised.”

Yea,right.

"What’s more, in 2011 and 2012, machines that were fixed in such a way so as to pay out large sums of money, or altered to make winning easier, were also made illegal."

Just makes the addicted lose more. And wouldn't the machines be more profitable?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't understand why Korean tourists would go to Japan for small pachinko play when they could fly a little bit further to Macau for real gambling? Japan is certainly a bit safer but it's a much smaller operation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seriously, just open legal casinos, regulate them, and tax them, and make sure Yakuzas won't get their hands on the operations.

That should be a big blow to this not so productive pachinko industry

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"Seriously, just open legal casinos, regulate them, and tax them, and make sure Yakuzas won't get their hands on the operations."

You're dreaming. The yakuza has close ties with right wing government groups. Even if the legal ones open up, the yakuza will be one of the first ones to have their hands in that delicious pie.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

On the other hand, despite the tens of babies killed by their mothers while playing pachinko, there is barely any move to ban them in Japan.

5 ( +5 / -1 )

Loopholes... there is nothing traditional about these just greed and money

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Never hear of anyone building a house from their pachinko winnings, but hear a lot about people loosing their homes and families because of the addiction.

Just another "problem" that Japan doesnt want to identify and take care of.

Although gambling in Japan is technically illegal (aside for horse racing and betting on motor sports),

Forgot to add bike racing, as in MAN-powered type.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

That's pathetic. If your pachinko habit involves international travel, I think it's high time you took a long hard look at your life and your priorities.

4 ( +4 / -1 )

The environment and given circumstances are quite different to the casinos abroad; when it comes to the casinos, the amount one can spend is fixed from the outset and exceeding this sum means being unable to continue further. What’s more there are even cases in which customers who visit too often are cautioned by members of staff.

That's complete and utter nonsense and makes me wonder about this woman's credibility.

http://www.otani.ac.jp/kyouin/nab3mq0000004076.html

1 ( +2 / -1 )

pachinko parlors are almost always situated right next door to a “separate” business that will happily exchange any pachinko balls won for cash prizes.

This is not accurate either, the "balls" are either exchanged for goods inside the parlor itself or traded for a token (typically 100 yen, 1000, or 10,000yen) that are then taken to a location "next" door or near the parlor and traded for cash.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just another "problem" that Japan doesnt want to identify and take care of.

Too right, Yubaru!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Really annoying when you walk past these places and some grinning loon calls out "Hey buddy!" and tries to lure me inside. No way am I funding yakuza... and anyone who calls me buddy in a cod-American accent is automatically ignored.

I'm always amazed at the sound levels when the doors slide open... are people who frequent Pachinko Parlours deaf? I can also see how they can become addictive... like fruit machines and those bloody UFO catchers they work by offering something if you try just once more... come on, you're bound to be lucky this time...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Last time Abe was in power, he considered banning pachinko and was asked not to by the South Korean President Roh, because of the detrimental effect such a ban would have on the South Korean community in Japan, which is prominent in pachinko owning (as are North Koreans). It looks like this is another new flow of cultural exchange - Japanese go to Korea for cheap plastic surgery, Koreans come here for abortions and and pachinko, both of which are illegal in South Korea.

I tend to agree that pachinko should be more regulated in Japan also.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hate these noisy, stinky places, BUT people travelling to places where they choose to lose money is their own (unwise IMO) choice. Lots of people also travel to Macau or Las Vegas for the same reason. People like to gamble, and that's their own foolish choice. Vegas used to be a great place. Prostitution should also be legalized (for consenting adults only, of course). Personally, neither interest me in the least, but that choice lies with the individual only.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If North Korea opened a little hole in the fence and welcomed the cousins from the South to their pachislots, they'd become as rich as Monaco in a few months...

they choose to lose money is their own

At the beginning. And for some that becomes an addiction as awful as crack or coke.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What happens in Vegas, err Japan, stays in Japan. ;)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Welcome to the World of illusion and elusive money.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Although my liberal termperament means that I would not want to ban pachinko, I feel that it is a tragedy that these wasteful buildings suck in so much of the country's resources. Surely people's time and money could be put to better use?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Some of the comments here are unbelievable. There are all kinds of things that are "bad" for you, or at least what in our eyes are bad for other people. Obviously some people enjoy playing pachinko, just as they might enjoy some other kinds of gambling, or drinking alcohol, eating candy, or some "wrong kind of food," or spending all their money on some kind of hobby or entertainment that we might think is silly. If someone is going to be "addicted" to pachinko, so what? 999 out of 1000 are not. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if everybody just minded their own business without trying to dictate what is good for everybody else?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

What’s more there are even cases in which customers who visit too often are cautioned by members of staff. I truly feel that this type of hands-on approach is a realistic strategy in minimizing the problem of gambling addiction.

This sounds like what the Caesars' Conglomerate has done in Las Vegas. You go to any of the casinos' websites and you'll find a page like this:

http://www.caesars.com/corporate/about-us-responsible-gaming.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If someone is going to be "addicted" to pachinko, so what? 999 out of 1000 are not.

Care to try to prove this as a fact and not just conjecture? The addiction doesn't just affect the person it affects families, friends, one's health many times and society as well. A gambling addiction can be just as bad or worse than a drug addiction and no one argues that drug addictions are ok.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if everybody just minded their own business without trying to dictate what is good for everybody else?

Wouldn't it be better if you took your own advice?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Care to try to prove this as a fact and not just conjecture? The addiction doesn't just affect the person it affects families, friends, one's health many times and society as well. A gambling addiction can be just as bad or worse than a drug addiction and no one argues that drug addictions are ok."

Sure, and you know what's good for everybody and you're going to change their behaviour, right? In this case, presumably by closing down pachinko parlours like they did in Korea. So what happened to the dedicated pachinko players? They go to Japan once in awhile, right or probably turn to some other kind of gambling. Just like in the US where gambling is illegal in lots of places, people go to Las Vegas or Reno or Atlantic City where it is legal. Shut those down too and they will just go to some underground club somewhere. The point is that you can't legislate people's behaviour whether you like it or not, as has been proven over and over again, and it is better to have that stuff out in the open where at least it can be regulated rather than out of sight where it can't be, And very few people who play pachinko or gamble become "addicted" to it any more than most people who have a drink become an alcoholic.

The world is full of people who want to tell everybody else what they should and shouldn't do, and what is good for them. The ones today call themselves caring people or do-gooders or social engineers, in the old days they were known as witch hunters, or nazis. Exactly the same types of people.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I've seen shuffling graveyard people standing in lines for these places to open. It makes me sick that the only new things being built are pachinko gambling meccas. The big ones in rural areas demand so much space too. Surely something better can be done with the land they occupy ?

I thought a few months ago where I live in downtown Fukuoka, I saw them building a giant structure, I was hoping it would be a new shopping center and it turned out to be a Pachinko parlor. These things are a huge eye sore. Yes, these things take up too much space, think about it, there are so many things that Japan can make to bring money in, but these establishments are a waste of money and doesn't benefit the society in any way.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Sure, and you know what's good for everybody and you're going to change their behaviour, right? In this case, presumably by closing down pachinko parlours like they did in Korea

For many if there is no place to go the attraction lessens. There is no way to stop the hard core gamblers however the people who really need help get started on the road to recovery by not having their addiction infront of their faces.

The world is full of people who want to tell everybody else what they should and shouldn't do, and what is good for them

In most cases it's a neccesity called LAW and ORDER without people telling others what they should or shouldn't be doing within reason there would be anarchy.

You want to waste your money on gambling that's your choice, but to a truly sick person, who has a gambling disease they are a problem to society as well and society has a right to protect itself from them too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Seriously, just open legal casinos, regulate them, and tax them, and make sure Yakuzas won't get their hands on the operations. That should be a big blow to this not so productive pachinko industry

Not so productive? Because you don't like it, doesn't mean we have to shut down the industry. It's like moving to England and hoping to ban cricket because it is not as interesting as baseball.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

dudedouche: sigh, you cant compare cricket with pachinko.

I for one HATE pachinkos. All I see is zombies go there to lose money. The pachinos are noisy as hell and lets not talk about the amount of energy they use for all the lighting. I really wonder what those people would do and how many people would be a LOT richer if they didnt spend all their earnings on this cr@p.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This article gives quite interesting for us as Japanese Pachinko(including Pachislo) business almost consists of Korean illegal residents(nearly 90% of total). It is usually famous in his hometown, the father of SoftBank's CEO Son Masayoshi, acquired Japanese nationality, started Pachinko business and it is now known as a name of You-Kou Lucky Group, contains more than 30 large parlor buildings. Korean Parlor have used to evade numerous tax, sending cash to their mother counties since WWII had finished, and one of their important role is to earn as much money as possible from real Japanese people they are educated to disguise and hate. This is also their major motivation to success in this business, however urban parlors will welcome visitors to play Pachinko from their mother country.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They should come to Edogawa / shitamachi area. Any new piece of land - pachinko parlour goes straight up. There are literally SEVERAL at my station!

Nothing suspicious at all...

/s

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

are people who frequent Pachinko Parlours deaf?

I have often pondered the same thing... I don't know if it's still allowed to smoke inside too but one day, several years ago, my (then) young son heard "nature calling" so we dived into a pachinko parlour... That "once" was more than enough for me ! Eyes streaming from the smoke, ears deafened by the noise... we dove out even faster then we did "in"... How anyone can not only put up with it, but even leave their babies in cars or "home alone" (only to find them dead when they finally come out again) beats me !

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So, if you don't like Pachinko, just don't go (I don't). Individual choice. Somebody commented above that 'these establishments are a waste of money'. Do you, as a taxpayer fund it? No, of course you don't, so please explain how it is a waste of money. Pachhinko has a larger turnover than the entire Japanese Car industry. Assuming, that these places declare 50% off their turnover to the tax office, do you really ever think the Japanese government (or any government in the modern world) would put an end to this business? Please, lets stop with the energy concerns, its two years since the earthquake, Japan seems to be surviving ok.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If I never step foot in one of those places, it will be too soon. Good on Korea for getting rid of them. I personally know of a few families that have been severely impacted by pachinko. I am glad that my city has a by-law on them - I don't have to see them locally. Sadly the next municipality over welcomes them with open arms - they are the newest nicest buildings about yet somehow that city is nearly bankrupt and has no money in the coffers; the city is generally run down, One wonders where is there pachinko tax going? are they paying city tax?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

" there would be anarchy." Perhaps you mean mayhem. Anarchy does not mean lawlessness.

Again, it's the individuals' choice whether to: gamble or not, smoke or not, guzzle 2-liters of pop or not, eat 5 Big Macs or not, practice yoga or not, ad infinitum. Why not try NOT telling others what they can or cannot do(other than acts of aggression/violence, or theft) ? Stop meddling already.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Irony is that some of these are run by kita chosen sympthisers....... Yes, allow casino gambling in Japan and pachinko and yaks will sffer. Although some will still play pachinko for the "gorgeous lcd display"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Would someone ask a pachinko player his opinion on all of this? I hear there are some players who make their income from playing. I would never become one of them but I'll admit that I tried playing once and lost a few hundred yen or so. I found it interesting but gave up after losing after about twenty minutes. I did it just to find out what it was all about. It was too smokey and noisy to stay long. It is said that when they change the machines or upgrade them, people flock to the parlor because it is easier to win then. I'm sure the government gets its fair share of taxes from pachinko places so they won't close them down. Besides, Japan is a free enterprising economy. Good or bad, they'll be here for a long time. With new technology making machines more enticing all the time, those lines out front early in the morning won't change.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pachinko parlors are just producing the amusements. How to face to such a gambling is your responsibility. Although keeping strong intention is very difficult for us.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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