Japan: Online GamblingBy William - 24 February 2020
Gambling is generally prohibited in Japan unless special dispensation has been granted under law. The Penal Code applies to both land-based gambling and online gambling but there is no statute that specifically regulates online gambling. While there is some discussion about whether or not online gambling is illegal, strictly speaking gambling citizens placing bets via offshore sites while in Japan are acting in contravention to the Penal Code. However online gambling remains a grey area and the government very rarely intervenes.
Fully legal online gambling is operated by a number of governmental entities which run the lottery, a football lottery, horse racing, boat racing, bicycle racing, local horse racing and motor-cycle racing.
Although Japanese players could arguably be breaking the law by playing online players in Japan are not hindered from betting online. However in most cases they need to use non credit card payments such as Pay pal or E- wallets such as Neteller to play.
While players can gamble via offshore sites without fear of prosecution the government has on occasion taken steps against online gambling. But these cases are rare and there have only been a few cases where online operators located in Japan have been arrested and handed down suspended sentences.
However the government presented its view concerning online gambling in 2013, stating that gambling via offshore sites from Japan is illegal. In 2016 a number of players playing in Japan via an offshore site in the UK (Smart Live Casino) were convicted of illegal gambling. The site was in Japanese and the dealer was Japanese casino meaning that the service was targeted specifically at Japanese people. No action was taken against Smart Live Casino and those players accused of breaking the law received extremely light sentences.
A very large number of offshore sites are already targeting the market via Japanese language versions of their sites. The online market will continue to be unregulated in the short term as there seems little impetus for now to address online gambling laws. Offshore operator will continue to offer their most popular and well known games to Japanese players. However targeting the market exclusively only to Japanese players could well lead to government intervention so operators need to be wary. All the same Japanese customer service and availability during Japanese non working hours is advantageous and bonuses in local currency are being offered by a small number of companies. Operators offering a special focus on sports popular in Japan such as baseball and the top division of the Japan Professional Football League would stand out as well as well there is little emphasis on Japanese sports.
Casino style gambling will become increasingly popular once the resort casinos are up and running. However the Japanese government will not begin considering proposals for integrated resorts from municipalities and prefectures until 2021. In addition advertising restrictions will mean that advertisements for casino style gambling will not be permitted on TV or in the media.
OPERATORS IN THE JAPANESE MARKET
A very large number of offshore operators target the market with a great many sites offering their services in Japanese. A number are optimised for the Japanese market, offering manga style themes while a very small number accept local currency and offer bonuses in Yen. Some (but very few) offer online customer support in Japanese. There exist also a number of sites which are designed specifically and were launched for the Japanese market. One site (Journey) offers games specifically designed for younger Japanese demographic i.e. those who have grown up playing Role Playing Games on their console or pc.
Online slots and casino feature heavily on all of these sites. The majority operate from Malta or Curacao and their online slots are provided from a variety of providers. This means that they offer a wide number of well known online slots with themes which might be far more familiar to a western audience. Software providers include Play’n GO, Realistic Games, Playson, NetEnt, Pragmatic Play, Big Time Gaming, Blueprint Gaming, Red Tiger Gaming, Yggdrasil Gaming as well as many other well known companies. This means that the Japanese have access to the most recent online slots.
However the rules and content outside of these games are explained Japanese. In addition these sites offer table games and live casino although there are no Japanese speaking live casino dealers or croupiers. However it should be noted that Evolution is currently recruiting a Japanese speaker meaning that there could well be room for expansion in this space.
Lucky Niki offers a large number of slots already familiar to players in the UK. It is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority and operated by SkillOnNet Ltd. Lucky Niki offers a wide range of online and mobile games in a number of languages including Japanese. It is primarily focused on online slots but it also offers table games, virtual sports and live casino. The site uses a manga style female host called Lucky Niki to guide the player. The Japanese themed online casino was founded in 2017 and is now one of the most popular online casinos in Japan.
Wunderino actively seeks players in Japan. In September 2017 Wunderino announced that it would follow up on its successful launch in Germany by expanding its services into the Japanese market. The platform has proved popular with players in Germany and Wunderino said that it was now set to expand the service to Japan as it seeks to focus on a “few, selected markets”.
Tobias Carlsson, chief executive of Wunderino, said: “We believe that the online casino activity in Japan is still in its infancy and the market will grow rapidly in the coming years.
“With the support of our years of experience, ability to adjust our services to specific market demands, our Japanese employees and partners, we feel confident that we will be able to position ourselves as one of the leading brands in Japan.
Wunderino offers a wide range of online slots, live casino, and table games including poker. Content provider and aggregation platform Relax Gaming supplies its in-house and partners slot games. The online operator has access to Relax Gaming’s growing catalogue of proprietary content, including the supplier’s first network branded games, “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” and “It’s Time”.
Titles from Relax Gaming’s studio partners provide Wunderino with a catalogue of slots from more than 20 developers. Malta-based Wunderino was launched in 2016.
CASITABI (IN ENGLISH: JOURNEY)
Casitabi is a newly launched site in Japan mixing elements of online slots and Role Playing Games (RPG). Its games place an emphasis on taking part in a quest including “boss battles” and there is a heavy focus on story as well.
The online casino includes video gaming aspects into its design meaning that the player progresses by fighting against enemy characters, by playing slot games which are part of its portfolio. The percentage of the progress bar at the top of the screen increases with each spin, and when it reaches the end, the game advances to the “boss battle.”
In addition the site uses Anime styled characters and graphics. It also offers a specially developed “Blits mode” feature which allows users to play slots at six times the normal speed.
Its game providers include Evolution Gaming, Microgaming, NetEnt, Play’s GO, Push Gaming, Quickspin, Playson and Yggdrasil. In all it offers over 1500 games.
LeoVegas offers bonus in yen and is in Japanese. Japanese players are currently supported by chat and email, but they can also be supported by phone upon request. LeoVegas is Sweden’s premier GameTech company. Technology development is conducted in Sweden, while operations are based in Malta. LeoVegas offers casino, live casino and sports betting, and operates two global and scalable brands – LeoVegas and Royal Panda – as well as a local, multi brand managed services provider referred to as Rocket X. Its Royal Panda websites are also optimised and localised for the Japanese market.
OTHER ONLINE CASINOS
Other online casino in Japanese include: Casino Secret, bestlivecasinohouse.com Jackpotcitycasino (which also includes anime style images). Simple Casino, spinpalace.com Omnia, Casino X (which also offers bonus in yen). Gambola.com. uniquecasino.com (includes different graphics aimed for the Japanese market) and JoyCasino, which offers bonus in yen and is optimised for the Japanese market. Beyond these are great number of other sites which offer their services in Japanese including online sportsbooks which run their own online casinos.
ONLINE SPORTS BETTING
Sports betting is also offered in Japanese via some of the world’s top bookmakers but are not aimed at the Japanese sports betting market specifically. The inclusion of bookmaker’s odds however are becoming increasingly common as parts of mainstream sports news coverage.
Dafabet.com offers online casino games, virtual sports and sports betting all in Japanese. William Hill offers its services in Japanese and includes bets on the Japanese Pro Basketball League. 10bet Japan offers full Japanese language support. Sportsbet.io offers a Japanese language option. www.sbobet.com also offers sports betting in Japanese. A great many online bookmakers also offer online casino and slots. However none have a specific focus on the local sports betting market.
Surprisingly, Japan is lagging behind when it comes to esports teams. Laws meant to police organised crime and gambling prevent paid gaming competitions, whether at internet cafes or at stadiums, meaning that there is little incentive for professional esports teams. In Japan the idea of gaming as a spectator sport has only recently started to become popular. With 67.6m total players, the Japanese gaming market remains the third largest in the world, but most games associated with esports such as League of Legends, Dota 2 are not popular in Japan. However, the government is looking at ways to strengthen the industry alongside the Japan esports Union (JeSU).
There are no specific regulations under Japanese law for the advertising of online gaming services. However, the 2004 Guidelines on Advertising on the Internet issued by the Japan Internet Advertising Association rules that members must not advertise online gambling services offered by offshore online gaming operators to those living in Japan. Crucially under the terms of Japan’s new act for integrated resorts and casinos all advertisements for casinos will only be permitted in international terminals of the country’s airports and seaports.
Wider restriction on advertising offshore sites mean that online gambling has a very low profile in the media. This means that players need to actively seek out the best promotions and gambling sites online. There are a number of guides which already supply players with information for players seeking to gamble online.