This particular guide takes the legal and legislative framework in Japan as its focus, and attempts to clarify what is a slightly unusual and complex situation. Some forms of gambling are legal and some are illegal but rarely policed.
As things stand overseas providers do operate full services to Japanese residents and these offer the widest range of options when it comes to sports betting.
We will try to list, where possible, online betting sites which accept people from Japan and explain exactly what the current situation for people looking to gamble online in Japan.
Key Facts: Online Gambling In Japan
- Gambling made illegal in 1907 by country’s Criminal Code.
- Lotteries, scratch cards, soccer totos are legal.
- Betting on horse racing, keirin racing, powerboat racing and autorace also legal.
- Illegal casinos operate throughout the country.
- Overseas operators provide gambling services online for Japanese residents currently unchallenged by government.
Best Japanese Betting Sites
Gambling Legislation Timeline
The major reason why the legal situation surrounding gambling gets to be so complicated in many countries is often due to the many different items of separate legislation which are passed over a number of years. The following timeline traces the passage of such legislation in Japan:
1907 – Japan’s Criminal Code
It was Japan’s Criminal Code passed in 1907 which set out the country’s general anti-gambling position in no uncertain terms. Chapter 23 of the code referred specifically to gambling and determined that gambling, habitual gambling, running a gambling place for the purpose of gain and running or taking part in a lottery were all criminal offences. The code also set down what were fairly harsh potential penalties for each of these different offences.
1937 – Temporary Funds Adjustment Act (TFAA)
Due to a growing concern that war was on the horizon, the Japanese authorities created a national lottery through the passage of the TFAA in 1937 in order to urgently raise funds. It was repealed just one year later.
1948 – Government Finance Act + Lottery Voucher Act
Due to a similarly urgent need for funds following WWII, Japanese authorities passed both the Government Finance Act and the Lottery Voucher Act in 1948. The former gave the government the ability to legalise a permanent national lottery and the latter created exactly that.
1948 – Horse Racing Law + Bicycle Racing Act
It was in 1948 that the first two of Japan’s so-called ‘Public Sports’ were created and that betting through official channels on these sports became legal. The sports were horse racing and Kierin racing, and the relevant pieces of legislation were the Horse Racing Law and the Bicycle Racing Act.
1950 – Auto Racing Act
The third sport to be designated a ‘Public Sport’ and therefore to have legal betting made available was autorace speedway racing, and this development came with the passage of the Auto Racing Act in 1950.
1951 – Motorboat Racing Act
Japan’s set of four ‘Public Sports’ were rounded out in 1951 by the addition of powerboat racing through the passage of the Motorboat Racing Act.
1998 – Sports Promotion Voting (SPV) Act
On the 10th May 1998, the act commonly known as the SPV was passed to legalise football pools (soccer toto) betting on the domestic Japanese J-League. The act made the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) the regulator of this form of gambling, and today there are many different versions of soccer toto betting available.
2013-Present – Moves to Legalise Casinos
In the past few years there have been significant political efforts to legalise casino gambling in Japan but to date these have been unsuccessful. Most recently the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were forced to shelve legislation legalising casino gambling due to a lack of support from their junior coalition partners Komeito.
Do Players Get Taxed On Winnings?
Alongside the legislation detailing the legality of gambling in Japan, the situation regarding the taxation of winnings is also an important one to understand. Japanese lotteries are exempt from any tax but legal betting on the country’s ‘Public Sports’ is liable to tax. That only really applies, however, to gamblers with over ¥500,000 per year in dividends.
When it comes to online gambling, due to the fact that there is no regulated or legalised system of online gambling in Japan, there is also no mechanism by which authorities can collect tax on the activity.
Online Deposit Options & Methods
There are no legalised online gambling providers based in Japan and also no official Japanese legislation referring specifically to online betting or gaming. Due to this, all online gambling done by Japanese citizens – outside of pari-mutuel betting on ‘Public Sports’ – is done through large overseas providers and these offer a wide range of deposit methods.
Whilst online gambling is frowned upon in Japan, there is no real precedent for the government moving to act against those who take part. As such, all deposit methods are technically available but if punters do want to keep their gambling activities a little more under the radar, they can choose to use an e-wallet service. These services, after all, tend to keep the ultimate destination of money from showing up on bank statements.