Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING MAY 2018 28 FEATURE IN FOCUS PACHINKO: JAPAN’S UNLUCKY LOSER Japan’s preparations for integrated resorts are hitting pachinko harder than the actual casinos ever will. By Muhammad Cohen Muhammad Cohen also blogs for Forbes on gaming throughout Asia and wrote Hong Kong On Air , a novel set during the 1997 handover about TV news, love, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie. J APAN won’t open its first integrated resort for years, if ever, but the IRs already have their first loser, the country’s unique and ubiquitous pachinko business. Pachinko has become the target of efforts to combat problem gambling. That’s kicking an industry when it’s down: like the broad Japanese economy, pachinko has been in decline for more than two decades and the game shows no signs of breaking its losing streak. Japan’s version of upright pinball – players flick a dial to send five gram, 11 millimeter stainless steel balls cascading through a grid of posts where finding the right holes wins more balls – originated in the 1920s and flourished into the 1990s. Pachislot became part of the mix in 1965; current models are simple slot machines with video backgrounds and buttons players push to stop the spinning reels. Pachinko boomed with the introduction of video to machines in the 1980s. Player numbers peaked in 1995 at nearly 30 million in a