Japanese Pachinko Parlors Open Despite Coronavirus

Although gambling is still officially illegal in Japan, there are some ways to do it, which are, in a way, socially acceptable. The country has been in the process of legalizing gambling to construct much-needed integrated resorts that would attract thousands of tourists. Yet, the domestic population is still more interested in their traditional games — pachinko.

Earlier this month, some Japanese officials stated that they weren’t very happy about pachinko operators continuing to offer their service amid the coronavirus crisis. In other words, the parlors weren’t doing much to help in preventing the coronavirus spread.

Although the Prime Minister of the country, Shinzo Abe, declared a national emergency, that wasn’t enough to give the local authorities enough legal power to shut down pachinko parlors.

However, politicians managed to use another strategy, and that’s publicly naming parlors that didn’t shut down and shaming them for not doing so. The Governor of Tokyo, Yuiko Koike, stated that a total of 156 parlors closed their doors, but that hundreds more remained opened for business. Even the 156 ones that shut down did it only because they succumbed to the public pressure.

The situation in Osaka is similar, as 30 pachinko parlors are still working full steam ahead into the weekend when the number of visitors is increased. According to this piece, Governor of Osaka, Hirofumi Yoshimura, also used the public shaming tactics, where he mentioned nine pachinko operators and their irresponsibility towards the situation created by the coronavirus pandemic.

This was successful as some of the operators decided to preserve their dignity by shutting down operations until further notice.

However, one operator seems to refuse to close its pachinko operations — Okada Enterprises. According to its officials, that would result in 600 people losing their jobs temporarily. However, Governor Yoshimura claims that more pressing concerns were at hand right now than that. He stated that pachinko parlors are places where infection can spread really fast.

Legal Changes Have to be Made

Not allowing local governors to have the power to shut down pachinko parlors now seems rather illogical, so the central government made a suggestion to tweak the laws and give them that power.

Yoshimura stated that the “request” he made about closing pachinko parlors would be turned into an “instruction.” The clauses don’t really have penalties for parlors that refuse to close their doors at the moment.

However, Yoshimura stated that he would implement his orders as “a political decision” on Thursday. After that, he will observe the situation to see how to act in the future.

Japan is one of the countries that were supposed to have all eyes on it this summer, as it had been preparing for hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. However, the committee decided to postpone the Olympics to 2021.

Experts’ opinions still vary regarding whether it would be possible to host the Olympics the next year if a proper vaccine isn’t developed.

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