Japan’s lawmakers are reportedly considering betting on soccer and baseball

By Ucatchers

Japanese lawmakers may be softening their stance against gambling as reports have emerged that internal discussions have started to legalize gambling on Japan’s most popular sports.

The potential expansion of the practice would create a gigantic sports betting market estimated at more than $ 65 billion a year.

The Financial Times reports that the secret discussions involve the possible legalization of sports betting on soccer and baseball. If current restrictions on these two sports are removed, Japanese bettors will be able to place bets on Nippon Professional League baseball games, as well as the J-League, Japan’s premier soccer league.

Gambling on J-League games is already partially legal through a group-style lottery system run by the state.

People familiar with the ongoing conversations told the Financial Times that betting on both sports could become legal by 2024.

Japan currently allows betting on horse racing, cycling, motorboating and motorcycle racing. In 2019, betting on all four generated a combined revenue of JPY6 trillion (approximately $ 55 billion). It should also be noted that horse racing betting has grown at a rapid pace in recent years as mobile applications have been implemented.

Aside from betting on the four sports above, pachinko, a gaming machine that combines elements of a traditional slot game and vertical pinball, is the only other legal gambling activity in the country. And it is the most popular, with a local market value of around $ 200 billion a year.

The pandemic provokes discussions about the expansion of the game

Sources say that while resistance to expanding the sporting game remains high among Japanese lawmakers, the extremely negative economic damage suffered by professional sports Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it has led them to reconsider their stance and potentially deregulate betting on certain sports.

The Japanese are already a prized clientele on overseas gambling sites, where they use foreign-issued credit cards to gamble illegally on whatever sport they want. People involved in these sites say the appetite for betting on Japan’s national baseball and soccer leagues could be huge.

A source familiar with the ongoing discussions said it is still unknown when the spread of betting could happen, “but what has happened to the sport in the last year has made the government go a long way.”

The nation’s professional sports industry lost at least $ 2.5 billion in the first six months of 2020 due to the cancellation of games globally and the absence of spectators, according to a report from Kansai University.

Aside from the possible legalization of limited sports betting, Japan is also in the process of introduce gambling in casinos. Lawmakers legalized the practice in late 2016 and are now crafting the rules and regulations under which casino activities in the country would take place.

Fountain: Covid’s success prompts Japan to rethink rules on sports gambling, Financial Times, April 28, 2021

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