Mahjong in Japan

A thing that one would like most about the country of Japan is the ability of its people to state falsehoods and to believe in what they say while facing an absolutely opposite reality. Gambling in Japan is illegal, people are prohibited for getting indulged in it. A Japanese person making such false claims may be somehow laughable. Irrespective of the fact that there is a sanction by the state on gambling in forms of horse betting, lottery, dog, bicycle or anything which moves and race, one can find underground casinos operating at major cities throughout the country. When a citizen of this country from any of its part boldly states that mahjong parlours and pachinko do not exist, it’s a lie that would make you astonished!

You can find a whole lot of pachinko parlours that run legally by a trick that looks like a farce for the Japanese law. Winnings are collected by the players at the outside of Pachinko parlour buildings. Since money is not received by them within the parlour, a out of the world logic has stated that this can not be defined as gambling. It seems a good bet opening a Pachinko parlour in Japan, doesn’t it?

Some strange logical mechanism is also enjoyed by the authorities when it comes to Mahjong parlours. Many of them advertise the stakes at which you can gamble right on their sign outside, or alternatively in a popular comic book called Kindai Mahjong. Police, if sincere in their duty to stop gambling, would be required to purchase this comic book or walk out of their stations to find such wrongdoers. In majority of the cases, they prefer not to, since there are low stakes and playing expenses is very high, such that over longer period of time, most of the players will end up winning very low amounts. The players therefore play only for enjoyment and thrill purpose and hence, not illegally. It is only occasionally that the police raid the high stake parlours and this is because few unsatisfied customers lose much more than desired, calling on the police to inform gambling is prevalent in the establishment! It reminds to me the scene in the well known movie Casablanca, when Captain Renault steps into Rick’s Café Américain to announce, “I’m shocked – shocked to find there is gambling going on in here!”

Given the legality borderline, quite shocking is understanding that pachinko and mahjong parlours have actually closer ties with the legal authorities for earning the privilege of conducting their business. It is unthinkable to run a parlour without the police knowing about that! There have been initiatives taken in the recent years for changing laws in gambling, allowing casino operators to come to Japan. With Macau enjoying casino success and Singapore following suit, it is a welcome sign for the state tax coffers. Hence, even though the Japanese Government, which is presently reeling under heavy debt, is still objecting to such parlours, is a real question to be debated.

What many politicians believe or ‘say to believe’ is that giving a green signal would only allow flourishing organized crime. But nowadays who if not organized crime is benefiting of illegal or quasi-legal gambling businesses? Ignoring the benefits that legalizing this form of gambling can bring, let us glimpse how organized crime and politicians are strongly linked together. Although it is not absolutely sure as to how Mahjong would fit itself into a huge casino, it would otherwise be great to notice changes being made in the Japanese laws to accommodate these legitimate businesses to be introduced, but without additional taxes levied by organized crime and the police.