Sports Betting in Japan

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Japan is a country with a complex set of laws regarding gambling. While no legal casinos in exists in the country, other forms of gambling like lotteries, pachinko, and sports betting are legal.

The Sports Promotion Voting (SPV) Act was passed on May 10, 1998 to legalise soccer toto or football pools betting on the local Japanese J-League. The Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) serves as the regulator of this type of gambling.

Toto or J-League Soccer Pools

Betting on the Japanese professional soccer (J-League) also known as “Toto” is another legal sports betting system in the country. Bettors simply have to purchase their tickets at any authorized Toto booths. One does not need to be knowledgeable about the mechanics of the game to bet on it. Sports dailies often have their picks, commonly done randomly.

Keiba or Horse Racing

This equestrian sport has over 21,000 races annually. Japan has three kinds of horse racing including jump racing, flat racing, and Ban’ei racing or draft racing.

All of the major horse racing in Japan is under the supervision of the Japan Racing Association (JRA) of the federal government to ensure that all races are of high quality and efficiency. Non-JRA tracks are under the National Association of Racing (NAR).

The JRA organization has three tracks in Tokyo, two in the Kansai area, two in Hokkaido, two in northern Honshu, and one in Kyushu. The races held in these tracks are referred to as the Chuo Keiba or the central horse racing. Most of the high stakes races occur in winter, autumn, and spring, with the Japan Cup as the top race of all.

The Grade 1 Japan Cup, held every November at the Tokyo Racecourse, is a 2,400-metre invitational turf race. The February Stakes, Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Yasuda Kinen, Arima Kinen, Takarazuka Kinen, and the Tenno Sho races are also prestigious races hosted during autumn and spring. The Japanese Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is composed of Kikuka Sho, Satsuki Sho, and the Tokyo Yushun races.

Bettors far from any of these tracks can head to an off-track betting facility instead. One can also get a JRA online account, supervise the race on television, and bet using their mobile phones.
Local horse racing or Chihou Keiba is under the jurisdiction of the NAR. The organization operates 15 municipal tracks that hold smaller races than that of the JRA.

To keep the quality of races, horses competing in JRA races are not allowed to participate in any events organized by the NAR except when they are designated “Dirt-Graded races.” Similarly, NAR horses may only qualify for JRA races when they win dirt or international Grade 1 events.

Keirin or Bicycle Racing

Before horse racing was popular in Japan, many Japanese are already fans of the bicycle racing gambling system. This grassroots sport started after the Second World War and involves several cyclists competing for several laps, as they are paced by a motorcycle. Mainly a gambling event, keirin has evolved to become a sport when it became one of the events in the 2000 Olympics held in Sydney, Australia.

Keirin races are usually 1.5 kilometres long. Riders determine their starting position by drawing lots. Since the race is motor-paced, riders must stay behind the pacer for three laps on a 250-metre track. The pacer will eventually leave the track before the end of the race to allow the riders to sprint to the finish line.

Betting in Keirin include:

Exacta – bettors choose the exact order of the first two finishers
Quinella – bettors choose the first two finishers in no particular order
Trifecta – bettors choose the exact order of the first three finishers
Trio – bettors choose the first three finishers in no particular order
Quinella Place or Wide – bettors choose the two of the top three finishers in no particular order

Major events allow jackpot wagers such as the Dokanto! 4 two that allows bettors to choose the first and second place finisher in the last four races of the day and the Dokanto! 7 that allows bettors to select the winner in each of the last seven races of the day.

Oto Resu or Motorcycle Racing

Considered as the Japanese version of the motorcycle speedway, Oto Resu is a sport that began in Japan mainly for gambling. While it started in the 1950s, it was only in 1967 that the government established a regulatory body that greatly changed the rules of the sport.

To help maintain the integrity of the sport, riders who will race will stay in dormitories days before the event. During their stay, riders are barred from communicating with anyone outside the dorm.

Competitions typically use tarmac tracks, with eight riders that run on six laps. Rather than sliding while rounding the corners, riders instead lean around. A bike used for the race has a two-speed gearbox and has 599 cc. Like in the Speedway, the bikes do not have any brakes and the left handle bar is higher than the right.

While winners of races are unpredictable, some things can have an influence on the results.

Tips on Motorcycle Racing Betting

Research on the Sport. To win a game, you must have all the vital information about the sport. Pick one or two motorcycle racing types and research about its winning criteria, competitors, and surface type. Once you are familiar with this, you can better choose the odds and help you win.

Know the Odds. The motorcycle racing follows three types of odds. The decimal odds (European format), fractional odds (UK format), and the moneyline odds (American format). You need to know the different ways the results are presented to better understand the information that bookmakers give out. Take note that as more bettors choose a player, the chances of seeing them win goes up as well. But, this will also give you the lowest possible money.

Look for an Online or Local Sportsbook. When you are a beginner, it is best to learn by using only one sportsbook. Dealing with many different sportsbooks may become too confusing and overwhelm you. Be wary of dealing with an online sportsbook. Never give out personal identification or credit card information without verifying if the website is legit.

Gamble Wisely. Engaging in any form of betting can become addictive. Winning a few times may make you feel confident and encourage you to bet higher. Always exercise caution and gamble wisely.

Kyotei or Boat Racing

As early as 1952, government-sponsored kyotei has been a prominent gambling activity in Japan. Japan has more than 20 venues where these races are regularly held. There are six-speed boats that will race three laps around a 600-metre course. Bettors must correctly predict the winner, two of the top three, or the exact order of the top three finishers to win. A single race takes about two minutes.

Boat racing allows women to equally compete with men. Since the weight is crucial for the race, boats of female racers are commonly placed with additional ballast to balance out the weight.

What Taxes Should I Pay for Winning in Sports Betting in Japan?

Engaging in any form of gambling in Japan comes with the understanding that winners have the responsibility to pay the corresponding taxes. Winnings from Japanese lotteries or takarakuji are exempt from taxes. On the other hand, winnings from the country’s public sports betting are subject to tax provided that gamblers have more than ¥500,000 annually in dividends.

Earnings from online gambling, however, is much more difficult to regulate as no legalised system is currently in place to regulate and monitor the identity of the winner and the total amount of winnings.

It is worthy to note that horse race, keirin race, powerboat race, and auto race betting are the only legal public sports betting in Japan. Note that these sports betting systems all strictly follow a pari-mutuel tote betting. This means that all races would pay 75% of the betting pool, with the remaining 25% automatically goes to the government taxes, race winners, operational expenses, and organizer profit.

What Are the Online Betting Sites I Can Visit in Japan?

While laws pertaining to online sports betting in Japan are vague, a number of residents still wager on online gaming sites. The following websites have Japanese language and offer Japanese yen as a currency:

  • Betway
  • Bet365
  • Intertops
  • MyBookie
  • SpinSports
  • XBet
  • Pinnacle

These online betting sites are quite popular for Japanese bettors since they have more freedom on what type of bets they can make. In Japan, bettors are only allowed to make parlay wagers where operators get a bigger chunk of the prize money. Online betting sites allow Japanese residents to make fixed odds betting. These sites also allow bettors to wager on many other sports other than those that are available in Japan such as the NFL, NHL, and the NBA.

Is There A Limit For Sports Betting in Japan?

In 2017, the Japanese government announced its plan to put stringent limitations on sports betting. The proposal is geared towards solving the growing gambling addiction in the country. Some of the limitations include putting a cap on the maximum amount a player can wager, removing ATMs from allowed betting areas, and reducing the number of balls a pachinko machine can dispense.

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