Pachinko (パチンコ): Japan’s Multi Billion Gambling Industry!

Gambling in Japan has been illegal through out most of its post World War 2 history. In 2018, Japan introduced a bill that would allow a few resort like casinos to operate under harsh restrictions for the Japanese population. However, there has been a form of gambling that has been allowed which, according to sources, rake in more gambling revenue than Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore combined! What we’re talking about here is the Pachinko Parlours that has an annual revenue of almost $300 billion USD!

In Japan there are more than 10,000 Pachinko Parlours across the country. The Pachinko Parlours attracts around 30 million Japanese players per year and employs more than all the top 10 car factories. But let’s put the Pachinko industry in perspective: Japan’s famous horse-racing industry, which is run by the government, has about $30 billion of annual wagers. This makes it about three times bigger than any other horse-racing industry on the planet; Pachinko is ten times bigger than that!

But what exactly is Pachinko?

vintage-pachinkoPachinko is a gambling machine which can be described as a hybrid between a pinball machine and a slot machine. It was first introduced in the 1920’s but obviously the technology has developed the game far from the original. The modern Panchinko machines includes video features, jackpots and much more.

The game starts by the customer purchasing a number of steel balls (11mm in diameter). These steel balls are then shot into the game window and randomly fall through a maze of obstacles such as cups, traps, pins and other stuff. Some of these obstacles will trigger a win of sorts and reward the player with more steel balls but also to trigger the three reel digital slot machine where the player will have the chance to win the jackpot. Once the jackpot has been hit (by getting three symbols of the same kind on the slot reel) the lower part of the machine will open up and unleash the winnings of steel balls into a tray.

Since the Japanese law prohibits cash to be paid out as winnings in the Pachinko Parlours, the winner will have to exchange the steel balls to gift vouchers. For smaller winnings, the gift vouchers can be chocolate bars, cigarette lighters and other things. But for larger winnings there’s the Special Gift Vouchers which can be sold outside the parlour, usually in an establishment nearby the parlour, for real cash.

The most popular Pachinko machines!

pachinko_newThe design of the Pachinko machines vary quite a bit and often feature movie themes and different music scores. Some of the most popular Pachinko machines (by sales revenue) feature blockbuster movie themes, anime, manga and video game themes as listed here below:

1. Fist of the North Star
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
3. Aladdin
4. Onimusha
5. Ultraman
6. Ore no Sora
7. Monster Hunter
8. Salaryman Kintarō
9. Ring ni Kakero
10. Dynasty Warriors
11. Gamera
12. Eureka Seven
13. Monogatari
14. Resident Evil
15. Popeye
16. Seven Samurai

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