More than 4 billion people around the world gamble at least once every year.
In casinos, online, and in many other forms, the gambling industry is worth billions of dollars. And while some forms of gambling games are new, most of these games have a long history. Pachinko is one of those games.
Pachinko is a Japanese game that is at least a century old. While not formally a gambling game, it's extremely popular among Japanese people and increasing in popularity online.
So what is pachinko, where does it come from, and how is it played? We'll tell you all of that and more in this story of pachinko.
Origins and History of Pachinko
Pachinko takes its name from "pachi pachi". It's a sort of onomatopoeia. The saying refers to the clicking noise that small objects make on a crackling fire, not unlike the noise that these games make.
Pachinko dates back to the 1920s when a children's toy game called the "Corinth game" came to Japan. This game was a form of the Corinthian bagatelle, which came from the US.
Japanese pachinko is somewhat like pinball in that it uses small, metallic marble-like balls. These get bounced around nails and the point is to hit the jackpot holes. It's mainly a game of chance rather than skill, especially since the flippers on the old machines are now electronic.
Although it was intended as a recreational arcade game, pachinko is used mainly for gambling in Japan. And, because of the money that stands to be made from it, it has historically attracted criminal activity.
For example, the Japanese Mafia was well-known for controlling the money exchanged in Pachinko winnings. Today, however, that has changed. Parlours are generally run by Korean Japanese who started taking over the industry after World War II, when they were unable to secure other forms of employment in discriminatory Japan.
Online vs Offline Pachinko Machines
Japanese pachinko is mostly played in pachinko parlors. If you've ever stepped foot in Japan and walked by a large casino-looking establishment, with bright, flashing lights and lots of cigarette smoke, you know what we're talking about.
The game works by getting the pachinko balls into the jackpot holes. Unlike pinball where you get coins for hitting jackpots, you get more balls.
Top wins can give you as many as 10,000 pachinko balls. And those balls are then exchanged for gifts from the gift shop in the parlor. If you get three balls with three matching symbols, the prizes you can win are even bigger.
This game is incredibly popular in Japan but it's also begun to spread outside of the country. This has led to the adaptation of pachinko for online purposes. You can play online pachinko with a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a PC.
There are two ways of playing pachinko online: for free or for payment.
You can easily find free pachinko online. You won't make any money playing the free versions. But this is a great way to try your hand at the game before deciding to pay for it.
The other way to play is to pay an online casino. You pay to play because you make money when you win. You can pay through your credit card, but make sure you always choose an online casino that's credible.
Government Regulations and Restrictions
Japan has considered gambling illegal for a very long time and doing so was considered criminal activity. But Pachinko sits in a legal grey area in the country.
Things like betting on horse racing, motorsports, and the government-sanctioned lottery have enjoyed freedom when it comes to the laws surrounding gambling. Pachinko also managed to squeeze into that category, but largely because they've circumvented the exchange of money in the parlors themselves. They've done this by allowing winners to exchange the gifts they win at the gift shop for cash, but in a building that's separate and apart from the parlor.
But other government regulations have been placed on pachinko that parlors can't necessarily circumvent. One of these laws is cutting the maximum payout of each machine. This law is supposed to make it impossible for someone to win more than $450 in a session lasting four hours.
Another recent law has to do with casinos. Although long illegal in Japan, casinos are now allowed to operate.
But residents of the country aren't allowed to visit them more than three times per week. More than that, they'll have to pay an entrance fee every time they visit.
Here are some fun stats that reveal just how popular pachinko is and who's playing it:
there are more than 10,500 pachinko parlors around Japan
almost half of all the available leisure time in Japan is spent playing pachinko in parlors
it's estimated that 40 million people play pachinko every year
those 40 million people draw more than 30 trillion yen into the gaming economy
30 trillion yen is the same as $270 billion, which is 30 times the annual gambling revenue of Vegas and double the amount that Japan's export car industry makes
the pachinko industry employs more people than the top 10 car manufacturers in the country
The Future of Pachinko
Pachinko parlors are actually on the decline in Japan. Compared to 1995, there are 40% fewer pachinko machines today. They're also drawing in a third less profit than they did in 2005.
One of the major reasons for this decline in pachinko playing in Japan is the advent of online options. For the casual player, free online pachinko is readily available. And for those looking to cash in on the potentially high winnings that pachinko offers, paid pachinko can be easily accessed on numerous online casinos.
The best part of online casinos is diversity. You're not restricted to playing just pachinko, you can choose from any number of games. Check out the games we have on offer to get started.