Fears of the pachinko industry apocalypse on the rise

Televised comments by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggesting that pachinko is effectively a form of gambling has sent shivers through the already struggling pachinko industry.

Defending the Abe government’s decision to pass the IR Implementation Bill on a July 23 television program, Suga stated, “In Japan until now, we have had gambling such as pachinko, horse racing, and bicycle racing, but we have had absolutely no policies to deal with gambling addiction.”

Suga continued, “As for pachinko, it is currently, in total, a JPY23 trillion (US$207 billion) industry. Wherever you go in Japan a pachinko parlor is nearby. We will take countermeasures against this as well. First of all, we must make it into something that doesn’t resemble gambling.”

While it is not clear specifically what policies the Abe government intends to introduce in the future, the inference is that the so-called “three-store system” by which pachinko is effectively rendered into a gambling system may be banned.

If so, it becomes a major question whether or not the pachinko industry can survive if it is rendered into the mere “game” that existing law pretends that it is, rather than functioning as a barely disguised form of gambling.

At any rate, the establishment of the very visible and controversial IR industry is clearly threatening to unleash a pachinko industry apocalypse, now that the long-held legal fictions by which it has operated for so long are under much deeper public scrutiny, and even top government leaders are essentially admitting that it is a massive gambling industry and the source of major Japanese social problems.