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Poker Set To Finally Penetrate Japanese Gaming Industry

Japan could experience a poker boom as casino legislation comes closer to being passed!

(Image source: www.skift.com)

Japan and gaming have become almost synonymous ever since Nintendo basically conquered the world with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. This love affair with gaming goes beyond the living room and out into the arcades. Just consider the popularity of pachinko, which according to Japan-Zone.com commands a whopping 40% of the country’s leisure industry.

One gaming craze that hasn’t penetrated the country quite as successfully as it has other parts of Asia is poker. There are numerous signs that the popular card game is already making headway into Japan, though. We’re not just talking about pop culture staples such as anime poker cards, either.

A number of Japanese players have already participated in multiple online and live poker tournaments to varying degrees of success. Live poker tournaments in Asia regularly see Japanese entrants, with the official blog of online gaming giant Partypoker noting that Japan fielded an entire team during the 2009 Asian Poker Tour’s Battle of Nations tournament.

The most successful Japanese poker player so far is Naoya Kihara, who in 2012 became the first Japanese poker player to win a World Series of Poker bracelet. “Poker is getting popular in Japan,” Kihara told ESPN after his historic win. “A lot of people joined online poker and then improved their skills. … A second, third and fourth bracelet winner should appear.”

While Kihara’s win has definitely helped drive more Japanese poker players into the tournament circuit, there is still one big hurdle that needs to be overcome in order for a full-on poker boom to occur in Japan: the country currently has no legalized casino gaming. Fortunately for the country’s poker aficionados, all this could change soon.

Naoya Kihara (Image source: www.tokyoezine.com)

Naoya Kihara (Image source: http://www.tokyoezine.com)

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of speculation and punditry about the future of casino gaming in Japan. The Japanese government is still slated to vote on the legislation but the general consensus seems to be that it will pass. When it does, Tokyo and Osaka will be competing for a total of four gaming licenses

The latter, for its part, is sprinting ahead of Tokyo in the race to build Japan’s first casino resort. In a recent Reuters report, it was revealed that Osaka plans to position Yumeshima, a plot of reclaimed land on Osaka Bay, as a prime candidate for global gaming operators. Tokyo-based amusement park Huis Ten Bosch has also announced plans to buy new land for a possible casino expansion.

Poker players aren’t the only ones who stand to gain a lot if – or when – Japan finally legalizes casino gaming. Experts estimate that the Japanese gaming market could generate revenues of at least $40 billion a year, making it second only to Macau.

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  1. May 3, 2014 at 1:19 am



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