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Can you Play Pachinko in the UK?

TractorBoys

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Japan is the absolute undisputed home of pachinko. Not only was the game invented there, but it is also largely the only country that enjoys playing the game.

One of the reasons for the popularity of pachinko in Japan may be because of the country’s strict gambling laws. And it is popular. It is said that some 4% of Japan’s GDP is covered by revenue from pachinko parlours. Some reports even go as far as saying that pachinko rakes in more cash than Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore combined.

How true those figures are is debatable as pachinko has been in some decline for years, although it is still hugely popular.

What is the fascination with pachinko, and have the British taken any interest in the game, if so, where can you play it?

What is pachinko?​

Perhaps the closest game to pachinko that British people would recognise would be pinball. Originally, pachinko was a mechanical game very much like pinball where small ball bearings would be fired into the game by a lever.

The aim of the game was to get the balls to land in certain areas on the playing area for bigger results. One major difference between pinball and pachinko is the orientation of the game machines. While pinball is generally played on a horizontal machine while standing, pachinko is the complete opposite.

Pachinko parlours feature rows of vertical, noisy gaming machines with players sitting closely in front of the screen.

Nowadays, the machines employ as many digital visual and sound effects as video games do, while still keeping mechanisms for the ball bearing release and travel.

Why is pachinko so popular in Japan?​

Across Japan, there are around 9,000 pachinko parlours where millions of people gather to play the mechanical game according to Statista. To an outsider, it may seem strange that so many adult men and women would want to play what is ostensibly a modern pinball game.

The reasons for this lie in two areas.

Pachinko has been a part of Japanese culture for a long time, before the Second World War in fact. The other reason, and perhaps the biggest one, is the gambling factor.

While the UK enjoys very relaxed gambling laws, Japan is much stricter in this regard. There are many fun ways to enjoy online casinos and other forms of gambling in the UK but in Japan the options are limited.

Pachinko is one legal way to circumvent the gambling laws.

How does pachinko avoid being banned under Japan’s strict gambling laws?​

While it is true that there are fewer pachinko parlours than before, there are still nearly 9 million people playing the game across the whole of Japan.

It is so steeped in the psyche of many that the government would probably never think about banning it under the gambling laws, especially when you consider the revenue it makes.

The way pachinko works is that when a player finishes their game they return their balls to a kiosk where they can be exchanged for special tokens. No cash prize is available as the game would break the gambling laws.

The player can then take these special tokens to an off-site vendor who is independent of the pachinko parlour. This vendor will then ‘buy’ the tokens for cash. This transaction is necessary to keep pachinko classed as a leisure activity and not gambling.

Do any other countries play pachinko?​

It may not be easy to track down pachinko machines in other countries, but they do exist. One extreme example is Pachinko World in North Carolina. Leo Daniels owns the only pachinko parlour in North America, and quite possibly any country below too.

Other countries have their own favourite games and gambling activities, so this may be why pachinko hasn’t travelled so far.

The UK has its own passion for fruit machines which can be found in bookies and pubs all across the country. Obviously, football betting is a huge market for British residents, and the lottery takes millions of pounds from punters too.

The National Lottery in the UK can be done in shops or online easily, and you may be able to improve your luck with a little magic. Tens of thousands of people practice white magic in the UK, and you can even check out lottery spells that may help you become a winner.

While Japan also has a lottery, it is pachinko that draws in players day after day. Could it catch on in the UK?

How can you play pachinko in the UK?​

The easiest way to play pachinko in the British Isles is likely to be online. The UK, and England in particular, has many arcades. These establishments are found in town centres and often in seaside resorts and on piers.

Although arcades still hold popularity for holidaymakers and fans of fruit machines, they are unlikely to be operating many pachinko games.

So, the two main options may be to either buy your own machine or search online.

Buying a pachinko machine in the UK​

A quick search on Google brings up two options for anyone serious enough to want to buy a pachinko machine. Picclick.co.uk and Ebay.co.uk are two sites that list auctions for pachinko fans.

Alternatively, there is dragonfly-amusement.com which is based in the Netherlands and has a whole section devoted to pachinko games with differing themes. These games come with designs based on anything from Lady Gaga to Star Wars.

No Premier League teams yet though.

Playing pachinko online in the UK​

Anyone who has been used to betting online will understand the advantages of using apps over websites on occasion. The same may be true for pachinko too.

The Google Play Store has several pachinko games ready for download free of cost.

At the time of writing, the highest-rated pachinko games on the Play Store were the intriguingly named Infinity Pachinko, and the rather blandly named Pachinko 2. Further options include, not surprisingly, Pachinko 3, plus Pachinko Revolution, Penguin Pachinko, and Extreme Pachinko.

Quite how extreme pachinko could be is unclear, but what is clear is that there are plenty of options for anyone in the UK to try out this mysteriously popular Japanese game.

Will pachinko survive modern times in Japan?​

It would be strange that something so popular could disappear without the rest of the world really knowing it was ever there. But, that is a possibility.

Pachinko parlours have declined in numbers over the years, as have the players.

Part of the reason for this is that the younger generations are finding different interests. Younger people in Japan seem to have less interest in the lottery or pachinko than the generations above, threatening the survival of the parlours.

Another threat is the possibility of casinos arriving in Japan. Although gambling options are limited to a few sports and the lottery, the laws regarding casinos were relaxed in 2017. So far, no casino resorts have been built, but they could be in the near future.

Summary​

Pachinko’s popularity can be confusing to anyone from outside Japan, and especially to a tourist who stumbles across a parlour. However, the game does have fans in other countries, and the internet is helping to spread pachinko further.

Download one of the many games to your mobile device and see whether you could become a pachinko master.
 

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