Scientific Game

2017 Inside Asian Gaming Power 50: Number 17 - Han Chang-woo

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 14:35
Visit us

17 Han Chang-woo

Maruhan Group



• Top moneymaker in Japan’s estimated US$30 billion pachinko market
• Company celebrated 60th anniversary in May, all under Mr Han’s leadership


Pachinko may be dying, but Japan’s unique pastime still produces some very healthy numbers. Market leader Maruhan Group booked an estimated US$2.3 billion in gross gaming revenue for its 2017 fiscal year, roughly double that of its nearest rival.

For the uninitiated, pachinko is an electronic gaming challenge that involves using a dial to try to flick metal balls into holes to activate bonus features that yield visual rewards and dole out additional balls. Pachinko parlors today also feature pachislot machines resembling conventional slot machines but have buttons that enable the player to choose when to stop the reel. Winnings can be exchanged for prizes and those prizes, in many cases, can be exchanged for cash at nearby locations, rendering pachinko a form of stealth gambling.

Born in Korea, Han Chang-woo came to Japan at age 16 in 1947 and founded Maruhan a decade later. Over 60 years, the company has assembled businesses including convenience stores, 17 golf courses, a handful of bowling alleys and driving ranges, a bank in Cambodia, plus eight restaurant brands, featuring homegrown concepts and international franchises, often as part of Maruhan entertainment complexes.

But Maruhan’s main focus remains pachinko, expanding to 320 parlors across Japan. Meanwhile, player numbers have declined from 29 million in 1995 to around 10 million today. Betting volume, ¥35 trillion (US$318 billion at current exchange rates) at its 2005 peak, shrank to around ¥22.5 trillion this year. Union Gaming Managing Director in Macau Grant Govertsen estimates pachinko’s gross gaming revenue at 15% of betting volume.

Accompanying pachinko’s decline, there’s uncertainty about the potential impact of casino legalization in Japan. Pachinko relies on convenience, something to do on the way home from work or shopping; some parlors refrigerate your groceries while you play. Integrated resorts are unlikely to compete on those terms.

To return to the full list of 2017 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.

Current Issue

Tribal Ambition

Tribal Ambition By Muhammad Cohen and Ben Blaschke   Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment CEO Mario Kontomerkos believes the Native American casino operator has two aces in the hole for Japan, especially when it comes to the so-called regional markets beyond major areas. In his presentation at last month’s Japan ... Monday, 04 June 2018 20:55

Social Gathering

Social Gathering By Shaun McCamley   Social casino gaming is booming. In 2017, the global social gaming industry generated a whopping US$106 billion in revenues, with the social casino segment generating US$4.5 billion in revenues. Not surprisingly China, Japan and Korea generated 90% of the games revenue in the... Monday, 04 June 2018 20:44

Redefining Tourism

Redefining Tourism By Muhammad Cohen   In an era when tourism constitutes a growing portion of the global economy, integrated resorts present a potent although frequently misunderstood means for growing visitor arrivals and revenue. It’s not simply the casino but their range of attractions that make IRs such powe... Monday, 04 June 2018 20:37

Japan IR Timeline

Japan IR Timeline By Ben Blaschke   What year for Japan’s first IR? It’s a question that continues to divide industry stakeholders, the answer further clouded by the substantial disparity in opinion offered at last month’s Japan Gaming Congress (JgC) in Tokyo. At the nearer end of the scale, members of the... Monday, 04 June 2018 20:27