Which country has the most legal gaming machines? If you said Australia, China, or the United States, then you would be wrong. Actually, the correct answer is Japan, thanks to the incredible popularity of the game known as pachinko.

This report was put together by Gaming Technologies Association, which is headquartered in Australia. When compiling their data, they factored in pachinko machines, pokies, electronic table games, video lottery terminals, amusements with payouts, and video gaming machines.

How Pachinko Works

The player begins by selecting the machine they want to use. Then, they insert either cash or some manner of credit/debit card into it.

To begin, the player receives a number of metal balls from the machine. These balls are often given special markings specific to the parlour, which is meant to prevent theft.

The balls are then launched into the machine. As they fall vertically through the game console, the balls pass through multiple traps, levers, and pins. If the ball passes through a specific area, then the player is likely to receive more balls (which help extend the game).

Newer models often have a digital poker machine in the centre of the screen. If you can line up three numbers or symbols on the virtual pokie, then you’ll receive an additional jackpot.

Collecting Prizes and Legal Loopholes

Once the game ends, the player is left with a collection of pachinko balls. The more successful their game, the more balls they’ll have. However, these balls cannot leave the parlour and cannot be exchanged for cash.

Luckily, the Japanese have come up with a clever way to get around their anti-gambling laws. The pachinko balls can be exchanged with the parlour for tokens. The player can then take the tokens to another vendor (often located next door) and exchange them for cash. Then, the secondary facility sells the tokens back to the parlour, often charging a small commission in order to make a profit.

Row of pachinko machines at a Japanese gaming parlor.

A Whole Lot of Gambling Machines

According to the report, the global total of legal gaming machines is 7,402,395. Of this number, Japan is responsible for 4,300,000, which is 58%. Australia, by the way, came in fifth with 196,301.

The Japanese pachinko market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, the revenue from these machines generates more than the combined gambling profits of Singapore, Macau, and Las Vegas.

Not bad for a nation with no casinos. Of course, that’s all about to change.

Casinos Coming to Japan

Across the nation, regulations are being finalized that will govern the arrival of casino gambling in Japan. Consortiums are being formed between Japanese companies and international gaming operators. These consortiums will invest in the casinos, reportedly to the tune of around $10 billion per facility.

One of the major regulations to this point involves the size of the casinos. Each facility is required to have a minimum of 1.07 million square feet, but the gambling portion can only take up 3%.

Other regulations govern the act of simply getting into a casino. Japanese citizens will need to pay $55 to set foot in a casino, and they can only do so 10 times within a 28-day period. Meanwhile, foreigners will be treated to free admission.

In order to run a casino, an interested consortium will need to obtain a license. While there have been no announcements, two front runners are MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands. The former is eyeing Osaka for their casino, while the latter has announced plans for Yokohama.

When all is said and done, more than 6,000 pokies will be added to the nation. This is bound to increase tourism, as well as extend Japan’s lead when it comes to gaming machines.

Additional Reading

If you want to read more casino news, be sure to take a look at the following:

Crown and Melco Deal on Hold

Major Losses for Casino Canberra

Increase in Victoria Pokie Losses

Criminal Allegations against Crown Resorts