19 Han Chang-woo
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
POWER SCORE: 1,239
POSITION LAST YEAR: 17
CLAIMS TO FAME
Largest pachinko operator in Japan in revenue terms
Immigrated from Korea in 1947
Founded Maruhan in 1957
Maruhan’s group revenue of ¥1.55 trillion (US$13.7 billion) in its 2018 fiscal year leads Japan’s pachinko industry. Korean immigrant Han Chang-woo began the business with a cafe outside Kyoto in 1957, and a year later he took over a pachinko parlor from his brother-in-law. Today, it operates more than 300 parlors across Japan, as well as restaurants, entertainment centers – it rode Japan’s bowling boom and bust of the late 1960s to early 1970s – cinemas, golf and banks in the Mekong region.
Despite the efforts at diversification, pachinko still generates the vast majority of Maruhan’s revenue and profits. But the industry’s contraction continues unabated, a victim of broadening leisure options, video games and government regulation aimed at reducing the gambling element that’s an undeniable part of pachinko’s appeal. Maruhan has been unable to buck that larger trend.
The next major challenge facing pachinko will come from Japan’s integrated resorts. For those who view pachinko and Japan’s legal gambling options such as parimutuel racing as substitutes for casino gambling, then the advent of the real thing gives ample cause for worry. However, IRs will have a ¥6,000 entry tax for Japanese citizens and residents, limits of three visits a week and 10 visits per month and won’t open until 2024 at the earliest.
Perhaps most important, there will only be three IRs in the country for at least the next decade. A study by Amusement Japan Editor in Chief Tsuyoshi Tanaka, a marketing professional before turning to journalism, finds that IRs would have no impact on pachinko players living more than two hours away. Global Market Advisors Senior Partner Andrew Klebanow suggests the relationship between pachinko parlors and IRs will resemble that of neighborhood bars and ultra lounges or dance clubs. The local bar is all about convenience and relationships – and that points the way forward for pachinko. How do you say “where everybody knows your name” in Japanese?
For the full list of 2018 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.