Learn About the Japanese Pachinko Industry


Pachinko is arguably one of the most popular gambling games in Japan. While it is more of an arcade machine rather than a game that gives you money as prizes, like a traditional slot machine, there is a loophole that exists in Japan wherein players can exchange the tiny silver or chrome balls that they use or win in the game for real money. Because of this loophole, pachinko has become a big gambling game in the country, and as of 2020, the pachinko industry is able to collect more than $200 billion from players. How does the gambling loophole in pachinko work? And how is playing it still legal in Japan, where gambling for cash is illegal? Let us find out more as we dive into the details surrounding the Japanese pachinko industry and its legality in the country.

How Is Pachinko Played?

Before you can play pachinko, you would need to exchange money for the small metal balls that serve as important parts for the machine’s gameplay. In the pachinko store, you will be able to exchange your money for the metal balls by inserting the cash into a machine. The amount of money you put or insert into the machine will determine how many metal balls you get. The metal balls will then be transferred to a ball tray, which is usually red in color.

After getting the metal balls, you would then need to choose a pachinko machine, where you will insert the metal balls to play. To get the balls into the machine, you would typically pull a lever or push a button, and the balls would shoot up within the machine. The balls would go in different places around the machine’s screen, and you need to wait for some balls to get into holes, baskets, or cups to win a prize.

When the balls get into the said areas of the pachinko screen, you will have a chance to get more metal balls, and the more balls you get, the longer you will be able to play the machine. The goal of pachinko is to get as many metal balls as you can, and it would often be better if you can get more metal balls than the amount that you started with.

During the early years of the pachinko craze in Japan, most pachinko machines have the traditional screen or gameplay, but in recent years, pachinko machines have evolved to include unique gameplay mechanics and even a TV screen where you will see a digital slot machine or a jackpot indicator. There are even pachinko machines that are based on popular movies, tv shows, or video game franchises in Japan, so if you are a fan of a specific video game or film, there is a chance that there is a pachinko machine based on your favorites. Furthermore, pachinko machines have also gone online thanks to the booming Japanese igaming industry, which promotes the creation of online pachinko machines and other casino games. You can try out these online pachinko machines even if you are not in Japan by simply going to a Japanese online casino and choosing a digital pachinko game.

Explaining the Loophole

metal balls that look similar to the ones used for pachinko machines

Winning money in pachinko stores is technically illegal in Japan, so the prizes you will get in most pachinko stores are not money but items like chocolates, toys, video game consoles, etc. However, it is possible for players to exchange their pachinko winnings for money using a loophole created by veteran players and the pachinko stores themselves.

The loophole starts at the pachinko stores or parlors, wherein players can exchange the metal balls they have won on a pachinko machine for “special tickets” or “golden tokens.” While metal balls cannot be carried by the player outside the parlor or store, special tickets or golden tokens can be brought outside. These unique items can then be exchanged for cash at exchange centers, which are often found near the pachinko stores or parlors. The loophole in this process is that while parlors are not allowed to give money to players in exchange for metal balls, they are allowed to reward the player with a special ticket or golden token. Moreover, those special items are legal to be exchanged for money as long as they don’t perform the transaction inside the pachinko parlor, hence the reason why there is an exchange center that is separate from the parlors.

Because of the popularity of the pachinko industry in Japan and its constant rise in revenue collected every year, many countries have started releasing physical and digital machines in their casinos. In fact, the revenue of the pachinko industry in the country is so high that it even generates more money than Las Vegas and Macau combined. As such, the number of pachinko machines in Japan is increasing, although the country’s government is trying its best to regulate the industry. It is actually just a matter of time that we will be able to see more pachinko machines outside of Japan because of how profitable it is.

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