Pachinko, more fun than gambling

Monday, 4 April 2011

Although prohibited by the authorities, gambling in Japan finds its place in the Rising Sun land of pachinko halls. Gambling is prohibited to Japan, pachinko halls are tolerated and accepted, the authorities saw in them more entertainment than gambling, even if the reality is different.

Pachinko is a Japanese gaming device used for amusement and gambling. A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinballvideo slot machines. machine, but with no flippers and a large number of relatively small balls. The player fires a ball up into the machine, controlling only its initial speed. The ball then cascades down through a dense forest of pins. In most cases, the ball falls to the bottom and is lost, but if it instead goes into certain pockets, more balls are released as a jackpot. Pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, but modern ones have incorporated extensive electronics, becoming similar to

The machines are widespread in establishments called “pachinko parlors”, which also often feature a number of slot machines. Pachinko parlors share the reputation of slot machine dens and casinos the world over — garish decoration; over-the-top architecture; a low-hanging haze of cigarette smoke; the constant din of the machines, music, and announcements; and flashing lights. Modern pachinko machines are highly customizable, keeping enthusiasts continuously entertained.

Because gambling for cash is illegal in Japan and Taiwan, balls won cannot be exchanged directly for cash in the parlor. Instead, the balls are exchanged for token prizes, which can then be taken outside and traded in for cash at a business that is nominally separate from the parlor, and may be run by organized crime

Pachinko machines were first built during the 1920s as a children’s toy called “corinth game”;ased on and named after an American game called “Corinthian Bagatelle“. Pachinko then emerged as an adult pastime in Nagoya around 1930. All of Japan’s pachinko parlors were closed down during World War II, but re-emerged in the late 1940s and have remained popular since then. Taiwan also has many pachinko establishments due to Japan’s influence during their occupation in the early 1900s.

Until about 1980, pachinko machines were mechanical devices. These machines are gravity-fed, meaning that the balls always flow downward, except when powered by a human: either the player shooting a ball, or an employee opening up the cabinet and putting more balls in the feeder bin at the top. When the player wins, a bell is rung by the mechanical action of the newly acquired balls flowing through the machine. Electricity (10 volts DC) is used only to flash a light when the player wins and to indicate problems, such as a machine that has been emptied of its balls. The player launches balls using a chrome flipper, and can control the speed of the balls to some extent by pulling the flipper down to different levels. The front panel has a tray for balls that are ready to be played, a tray into which balls can be emptied when the player is ready to quit, and an ashtray. Manufacturers in this period included Nishijin and Sankyo. Most machines available on online auction sites today date to the 1970s.

Starting around 1980, pachinko machines began to incorporate more and more electronic features, and began to require electricity for operation. Rather than a mechanical chrome flipper, these machines have a round knob that can be rotated to control the speed of the balls. There are many types of pachinko machines and parlor regulations, but most of them conform to a similar style of play. In order to play pachinko, players can buy metal balls by inserting either cash, a pre-paid card, or their member’s card directly into the machine they want to use. At parlors offering an exchange rate of 4 yen per ball, 1000 yen (around $12.00 USD) will get you 250 balls. These balls are then shot into the machine from a ball tray with the purpose of attempting to win more balls. The pachinko machine has a digital slot machine on a large screen in the center of its layout, and the objective here is to get 3 numbers or symbols in a row for a jackpot.

During the spinning of the slot machine, when the first 2 numbers or letters of the spin match up the digital program will almost always enter into “reach mode” where many animations and movies are then shown before the final outcome is known just to give the player a boost of added excitement. Most pachinko machines offer different odds in hitting a jackpot, ranging from 1 in 40 to 1 in 480. However, the most common set of odds among today’s machines are 1 in 100, 1 in 300, 1 in 350, and 1 in 400. If the player does manage to get 3 numbers or symbols in a row to obtain a jackpot the machine will enter into “payout mode.”

Depending on what type of pachinko machine is being played, the payout mode usually lasts for 15 “rounds.” During each round, amidst more animations and movies playing on the center screen, a large payout gate opens up at the bottom of the machine layout and the player must try to shoot balls into it. Each ball that successfully enters into this gate results in around 12 balls being paid out into a separate tray at the bottom of the machine, which can then be placed into a ball bucket for the player to do with as he or she wishes. The average total payout per jackpot is around 1250 balls, or 5000 yen worth.

Like in all gambling, the odds of any Pachinko machine can be assumed to be in favor of the house. According to the law of large numbers, the individual odds of any player will inevitably tend towards these overall odds with prolonged play. So in a mathematical sense, there clearly is no winning strategy for Pachinko (see also: probability theory, determinacy); however, “winning” strategies exist in a cultural sense, e.g. in that they are traded, discussed and followed by many people.

In Japan, gambling within the private industry is illegal, but pachinko parlors are tacitly tolerated by the Japanese authorities as “semi-gambling” and are not categorically considered as centers of illegal activity. Any potential illegal activity is evaluated on a case by case basis. Even then, only the most obvious offenders will be shut down, such as parlors that manipulate the payout odds of their machines when they are already in use. Attitudes towards pachinko vary in Japan from being considered a way to make a living to being stigmatized.

Taiwan is another region currently undergoing a pachinko craze as it is a form of gambling that bypasses the law. Crime organizations run many Taiwanese pachinko parlors as it provides a front for loan sharking, money laundering, escort services, and is also a source of investment income.

In Japan, due to its borderline legality, the pachinko industry has a close relationship with the Japanese police. In previous decades, when pachinko was accepted as a relatively harmless leisure activity, this was not the case. Currently, however, due to growing public and political pressure, Japanese police are more active in regulating parlors and they often send retired officers to become board members of pachinko companies.

As has been referred to above, at present, most pachinko parlors are required to pay an unofficial “gambling tax”, which is gathered from players’ winnings, as a form of bribe  to the police for tolerating their what would otherwise be illegal activities. It is normally the case that the police will only shut pachinko parlors if they blatantly alter the payout odds of their machines when they are in use, or if they have been significantly altered in any way to cause gamblers to lose an intolerable amount of money, such as with the use of third-party electronic devices. Hence, unexpected raids on suspicious pachinko parlors to search for such alterations are not uncommon in Japan today.

One interesting incident that illustrates the Japanese police’s high level of tolerance for the gambling that takes place in pachinko parlors occurred in 2005. In May of that year, a particular parlor in Kanagawa prefecture reported to the local police that someone had counterfeited their tokens and made off with roughly $60,000 in cash by trading them in at their nearby exchange center. However, even with such information proving that this parlor was illegally operating an exchange center, which, by law, must be an independent entity from the pachinko industry, the police did not shut them both down, but, instead, only worked to track down the thief in question.

Author: Editor

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Sir,

    We need to purchase Pachinko machine using Singapore note, please e mail us your price and catgolue

    Regards
    Steven

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