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Just Thinking About Casinos Hurts Japan's Reeling Pachinko Parlors by Muhammad Cohen

As Japanese as sushi, sake and Super Mario, pachinko is under attack from efforts to legalize casinos in the world’s third largest economy. A fusion of pinball and slot machines that’s a gray market form of gambling, pachinko has become the test case for official efforts to curb problem gambling, a key concern behind public opposition to casino legalization. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe champions creating so-called integrated resorts, but IR legislation faces growing uncertainty amid political scandal. Meanwhile, new restrictions on pachinko will likely do more harm than competition from casinos ever would. And unlike sushi, sake and Super Mario, pachinko hasn’t found fans overseas.

Pachinko has long been an after work – or long lunch – pastime, a way to unwind from the pressures of the office by flicking five gram stainless steel balls onto a grid of pegs, aiming to trigger a flood of themed video and bonus balls. Proponents say there’s skill involved in the flicking, as well as selecting the right machine, based on performance statistics displayed on each unit. Players redeem balls for points that can be exchanged at the parlor for prizes such as snacks or household items. The gambling side comes in because players can opt for special prizes that can be exchanged for cash at counters outside the parlor.

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