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Sports Betting in Japan

japanIn Japan only domestic sports can be wagered legally offline. Soccer betting is available pari-mutuel style (similar to a lottery) with J-League Soccer Pools, also referred to as Soccer Toto.

In addition, there are four public sports we can bet which are also done pari-mutuel style. These are horse racing, powerboat racing, motorcycle speedway and keirin.

For fixed odds betting, and to bet on foreign leagues, we need to turn to online betting sites. In this article I discuss both online betting and offline betting.

Online Betting in Japan

There are no online bookmakers that operate specifically from our country. This business activity is prohibited under chapter 23 of our penal code. There are however legitimate bookmakers from other countries that support our language.

These also offer betting on J-League soccer and for both JBL and BJ league basketball. Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and V-Premiere League volleyball are often covered too. The websites below are the ones we at Asiabet.org most trust.

  • Rank
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Dafabet is a top choice for several reasons. Their parent company is Asian Logic which is the largest government approved sports betting company in the Philippines. Their betting shops branded Mega Sports World can be found all over that country. When betting at Dafabet, we are dealing with a major corporation that is both experienced in sports betting and well respected in the gaming industry.

Dafabet offers betting on most Japanese sports including J-League, J2, Nabisco Cup, Emperors Cup and Super Cup for soccer, and JBL and BJ basketball. They also have both an online casino and poker room that can each be downloaded in many different languages including Japanese. The casino includes pachinko, slots and live dealer games. The poker room has a lot of traffic as it is on the internet’s largest poker network iPoker.

When opening an account at Dafabet you should select United States dollar (USD) as your currency. You will likely find an offer on their website for a generous sign up bonus. As good as Dafabet is, unfortunately Japanese yen (JPY) is not a supported currency. If you are looking to bet in JPY then www.10bet.com and www.sbobet.com are both good choices.

www.bet365.com (Japanese Language not supported) is another great website supporting yen (JPY). They are however only good for those comfortable wagering in English, Chinese, or another language.

Bet365 has more betting markets on Japanese leagues than their competitors. You can even bet on Womens L1 soccer here. The same is true for all other countries too. Bet365 is global and has odds on almost every sport and league from all over the world. If you have a funded account with them you can watch live sports streams right from their website. All live-streamed matches can be bet in-play while the game is in progress.

It is wise to open an account at each website mentioned in this article. This gives you the ability to shop the odds at each (find the best odds), and to take advantage of multiple sign-up bonuses. Additionally, if you are interested in betting leagues such as Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) or V Premier League volleyball, having multiple options of site to use is a must. While almost every bookie offers soccer and basketball, for the other Japanese sports coverage is sporadic. Having accounts at several sites ensures you can always find odds on the match you are looking to bet on.

How to Deposit and Cash Out

No matter which Japanese betting site you choose, a deposit is required to start. To quickly explain: if you deposit ¥25,000 this is your account balance. If you then bet ¥5,000 that Omiya Ardija will win a match, this is deducted from your account making your balance ¥20,000. If Omiya Ardija wins, the ¥5,000 stake is returned to your account and the winnings are added too. You can withdraw your money at any time.

When first getting started, there are many ways to deposit. If you are in a hurry to bet you will probably want to select the option credit card by Skrill. This allows you to instantly deposit with your debit or credit card. There is however another way to deposit that should set you up for the future. This is opening an account at www.neteller.com.

NETELLER is an e-wallet that can be funded with credit card or bank transfer. The money you load to your account can then be deposited to online betting sites. You can also cash out from betting sites using the same method. So essentially NETELLER functions like an online bank account. The benefit is fast transfers to and from sports betting sites. This is ideal when using multiple betting sites for the purpose of shopping odds.

Another great feature is that NETELLER supports Japanese Yen (JPY) currency and offers free NETELLER+ debit cards. This is a debit card with a MasterCard symbol on it. You can use it at an ATM to withdraw money or online anywhere that MasterCard is accepted; using it like this will simply debit your NETELLER account balance. This is a great e-wallet account to have if you are going to bet sports online from Japan.

Note that every betting site mentioned on this page supports NETELLER.

How Betting Odds Work

When setting up an account at betting sites you can choose which odds format is displayed. The easiest format to deal with is European decimal odds. These will be listed in the selection menu as European, EUR, Decimal or DEC.

With this format the odds shown are how much will be returned per yen staked on a win. If you bet ¥10,000 on odds 1.50 this returns ¥15,000 (only ¥5,000 of that is profit). If betting ¥10,000 on odds 2.50 this returns ¥25,000 (¥15,000 profit) on a win. Each wager has different odds as the bookmaker estimates each has a different chance of winning.

J-League Betting in Japan

JLeagueAs mentioned in the intro, in Japan we have local options for legally betting on soccer. This has been legal since 1998 with the purpose of raising money to promote sports in our country and to improve our competitiveness in sports on a global scale. However, it only applies to Japanese soccer (specifically: J1, J2, Emperors Cup and Nabisco Cup) wagers made through the official channel known as Sports Toto.

There are many forms of Sports Toto (also called J-League Soccer Pools) offered. Ones under the brand name Big are not sports betting but are lotteries that use football results. With Big the machine randomly selects matches and elements of the game results are used to determine winners. Others such as Toto, Toto Mini, Toto Goal 3 and Toto Goal 2 are betting pools where gamblers make their own selections.

There are many places to purchase J-League Toto. With a debit card from Japan Net Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), or Rakuten Bank, Toto can be purchased at an ATM machine. It is also sold at convenience stores such as Circle K, 7-Eleven, Ministop, FamilyMart and Lawson. Online sales are available on the Toto website or with Toto Rakuten or Yahoo! Toto.

A quick idea on how the J-League Toto works:

  • Soccer Toto – involves picking home (1), draw (0) or away (2) in all 13 football matches listed on the card. Tickets cost ¥100. 50% of the money collected from sales goes into the prize pool. The prize pool is split as: 70% shared with those getting all 13 correct, 15% shared with those getting 12 correct, and 15% with those getting 11 correct. If there are no first place winners, the jackpot carries over to the next Toto game. For this reason the payout size varies greatly each time.
  • Mini Toto – works almost the same as above. The difference here is that there are only 9 matches on the ticket from which purchasers make predictions on their choice of 5 matches. Again, tickets cost ¥100 and only 50% goes to the prize pool. With Mino Toto – 100% of the prize pool is shared with winners getting all 5 correct (there is no second place prize). The payout for 5 correct depends on the size of the pool and how many other winners there are. A winning ticket often pays ¥70,000 to ¥80,000 on an average week. It can be lower if all the favorites win, or higher when there are many upsets.
  • Toto Goal 3 -Toto Goal 3 involves 3 Japanese soccer matches. For all 6 teams you select 0, 1, 2 or 3 goals (when selecting 3, your selection is also considered correct if the team scores over 3 goals). Again, tickets cost ¥100 and only 50% goes to the prize pool. The prize pool is shared 60% with those getting 6 correct and 40% with those getting 5 correct. Let me warn that this generally offers poor odds. The true odds of getting all correct are about 4100-to-1, but it often only pays 1200-to-1 to 1800-to-1.
  • Toto Goal 2 – works the same as above but there are only 2 matches (4 teams) and you must get all correct to win a prize. Again these are ¥100 per ticket with 50% going to the prize pool.

Soccer Toto is much different than betting soccer online. All the online bookmakers I mentioned earlier in the article offer fixed odds betting on J1 and J2 soccer. Their websites offer many options including the same home/draw/ away as Toto but in fixed odds format. This can be done in singles or multiples called accumulators. With the later you add several wagers to the same betting ticket as a single bet. To win all selections must be correct. Adding many teams to the same accumulator gives a chance at a large payout relative to stake.

Online there is also Asian handicap betting which adds a point spread. If a team is listed as -0.5: at the end of the match 0.5 goals are taken from their score to determine the betting winner. For a team listed as +0.5, this many goals are added to their score. If the handicap is an even number such as 0, +1 or -1 and the result after adding or subtracting is a tie, then bets are refunded and it is as if the wager never took place. There are also ¼ and ¾ handicaps. To explain: if the handicap is 0.25 – this means half the stake is placed at 0 (no handicap) and the other half at 0.5. If it is 0.75: half is placed at 0.5 and half at 1.0.

These are only two of the many ways to bet soccer online. Another way is wagering whether the total goals scored by both teams will go over or under a specified number. For some matches you can bet correct score, draw no bet, which player will score first, which will score last, and many additional markets. The easiest way to learn the wagering options is to just get started for small stakes at one of the sites listed earlier on this page.

Public Sports

Having launched in 1998, Toto is a rather new form of legal betting in Japan. Since the early 1950s we have had four forms of legal sports gambling. These are called public sports and specifically are horse racing, powerboat racing, motorcycle racing and keirin. As there is a lot of information about these on the internet already, I will only cover them each briefly while providing links that can be used to learn more.

Legal Sports Betting In Japan

Japan has 4 legal forms of sports betting – horse racing, powerboats, speedway and keirin

Japanese Horse Racing

Horse racing is very popular in Japan. We have 24 Grade I (G1) races per year and over 21,000 total races. The big races are mostly organized by the Japan Racing Association (JRA) which oversees 10 tracks. The National Association of Racing (NAR) oversees racing in prefectures and major cities.

There are many ways to bet these races including winner, place, quinella, bracket quinella, quinella place, trip, exacta, bracket exacta, trifecta, and pick 5. Information on these forms of wagering are available in Japanese on JRA’s website www.jra.go.jp. Foreigners can find comprehensive information at www.japanracing.jp in English, Korean, Chinese and French.

All horse race betting is pari-mutuel tote based with 75% of the money from sales returned to winning bettors.

Powerboat Racing

Powerboat racing called Kyōtei is very popular for betting and averages more money wagered per race than the other forms of public sport. This is high speed boat racing with races lasting only a couple of minutes. It is extremely well regulated but also has superstar status associated with it. About 10% of the racers are females. In addition to being competitive, some female racers are used heavily in the marketing.

www.boatrace.jp has details of betting this sport in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. In Japanese language only, this can be bet online with www.teleboat.jp and results can be checked here.

A neat aspect about powerboat race betting is that the majority of the proceeds go to charity.

Keirin Cycling

Keirin is a sport with an interesting history some of which is covered in Wikipedia: 競輪 and Wikipedia: Keirin (English). What is missing is the fact this sport was created in Japan in 1948 for the purpose of creating a new form of gambling. Perhaps what no one could have imagined at the time is by 2000 it became part of the Summer Olympics. After 4 installments our country’s only medal came in 2008 when Kiyofumi Nagai won the bronze.

While Keirin is now an international sport, Japan remains where it is the most popular due to our betting market. We have 47 velodromes each with pari-mutuel betting. It is also possible to bet online at www.keirin.jp. Here there are many wagering options, but BIG DREAM is where the the big money can be found. This is almost like lottery as it is requires selecting the first and second place winner in the day’s final four races. If there is no winner the prize pool accumulates until a large jackpot is won. With this sport, almost all the material is in Japanese. There is however a Keirin Betting Guide in English.

Motorcycle Speedway

Motorcycle speedway (auto race – or ōto rēsu) is another heavily regulated form of parli-mutuel betting in Japan. While this is the way it is officially bet, there is also a large illegal betting market involving bookies. During the 1960s the bookies had corrupted the sport. Today match fixing allegations are rare. All potential race participants now stay in a dorm just before and until the conclusion of the race. This means by the time the bookies know which result would be most profitable for them, the participants are already in dorms without outside contact.

Due to its heavy regulation, auto race has become very popular for tote betting. Netbank and Standard Bank account holders can even bet the tote online. A How to Bet on Auto Races Guide is available in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese.

Other Forms of Legal Gambling

Technically speaking this article has already covered all forms of legal gambling in Japan. This is only because Takarakuji lotteries, which are massively popular here, are considered an amusement as opposed to gambling. Likewise, anyone including children can purchase tickets.

Pachinko is also considered an amusement. While everyone in Japan, including the authorities, are fully aware this is a gambling game; it is “technically” not legal. This is why balls are redeemed for tokens. The tokens are then taken around the corner to the redemption centre where they are redeemed for cash or prizes.

In addition to these other forms of gambling, online casinos and Japanese language poker sites are just now starting to catch on. You can read about these by following the provided links. This now concludes my article on sport betting in Japan, and with that I wish you the best of luck with this new found information.