Pachinko is a huge industry in Japan. It’s hard to miss the palatial structures that dot the urbanscapes of virtually every Japanese city. While pachinko is clearly a form of gambling, it’s legal because it has been classified as an “amusement,” and only gives token prizes to winners. Of course, it’s just a short trip around the corner and down the alley to the secret window where your six pairs of tube socks can be exchanged for cold, hard cash. While it is estimated that Pachinko parlors in Japan generate yearly revenues of between 20 and 30 trillion yen (215-322 billion dollars), Las Vegas-style casinos remain illegal. That could all change very soon, however, as the Japanese Diet prepares to seriously examine proposals for giant casino resorts. Local governments are also looking at casinos as a way to generate much needed additional revenue in hard economic times. The gambling mecca of Macau has drawn many Japanese tourists, and casino promoters are hoping to keep them at home with these new casino resorts.
Of course, there are the usual naysayers who insist that casinos will bring corruption and the end of civilisation as we know it, but there’s money to be made! Backers of the idea are saying that if all goes well, new casino resorts could start popping up in Japan as early as 2015.