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Pachinko parlors are widespread in Japan, and usually also feature a number of slot machines (called pachislo or pachislots) so these venues look and operate similarly to casinos. Modern pachinko machines have both mechanical and electrical components.


By 1994, the pachinko market in Japan was valued at 30 trillion (nearly $300 billion).[2] In 1999, sales and revenue from pachinko parlors contributed 5.6% of Japan's 500 trillion GDP, and they employed over 330,000 people, 0.52% of all those employed in Japan.[3] However, the sales amount of these pachinko parlors is calculated based on the total amount that customers rented pachinko balls from pachinko parlors. It is said that on average, about 85% of the money spent by customers in pachinko parlors is returned to the customers, so the sales of pachinko parlors are said to be about 15% of the statistical amount.[4] As of 2015, Japan's pachinko market generates more gambling revenue than that of Macau, Las Vegas, and Singapore combined.[5] Pachinko gambling's grey market nature and tremendous profit historically resulted in considerable infiltration by Yakuza, who used it as a vehicle for money laundering and racketeering. Since the 1990s, however, this has been less of an issue due to police crackdowns.[6] There were over 7 million pachinkos around the world in 2018 with more than half of them being in Japan.[7] Following a number of years of decline of parlours and machines, the number of pachinko machines in Japan dropped to around 2.5 million by the end of 2019.[8]

A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinball machine, but is different from Western pinball in several ways. It uses small (11 mm diameter) steel balls, which the owner (usually a "pachinko parlor", featuring many individual games in rows) rents to the player, while pinball games use a larger, captive ball.

The player loads one or more balls into the machine, then presses and releases a spring-loaded handle, which is attached to a padded hammer inside the machine, launching the ball into a metal track. The track guides the ball over the top of the playing field; then when it loses momentum, it falls into the playing field. Some pachinko machines have a bumper to bounce the ball as it reaches the top, while others allow it to travel all the way around the field, to fall the second time it reaches the top.[citation needed]

The game's object is to win as many balls as possible, which can be exchanged for prizes. Pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, but have since incorporated extensive electronics, becoming similar to video slot machines. Another type of machine often found in pachinko parlors, called a "pachislot", does not involve steel balls, but are loaded with tokens or coins and trigger reels comparable to those of a traditional slot machine. Online casinos also offer "pachislot" games to tailor their product to the Japanese market.

All of Japan's pachinko parlors were closed down during World War II but re-emerged in the late 1940s. Pachinko has remained popular since; the first commercial parlor was opened in Nagoya in 1948.[11] As a country influenced by Japan during its occupation, Taiwan has many pachinko establishments.[12]

An estimated 80 percent of pachinko parlors in Japan are owned by ethnic Koreans.[12] In 2001, British company BS Group bought a stake in Tokyo Plaza, which was running almost 20 parlors in all of Japan, and had also opened parlors in the United Kingdom.

Until the 1980s, pachinko machines were mechanical devices,[13] using bells to indicate different states of the machine. Electricity was used only to flash lights and to indicate problems, such as a machine emptied of its balls.[14] Balls were launched using a flipper; their speed was controlled by pulling the flipper down to different levels. Manufacturers in this period included Nishijin and Sankyo; most of these machines available on online auction sites today date to the 1970s.[13] After that time, pachinko machines incorporated more electronic features, thus requiring electricity for operation.

To play pachinko, players get a number of metal balls by inserting cash or cards directly into the machine they want to use. They then shoot the balls into the machine. Older pachinko machines use a spring-loaded lever for shooting balls individually; while later ones use a round knob, controlling the strength of a mechanically fired plunger that shoots the balls. The balls fall vertically through an array of pins, levers, cups, traps and obstacles until they enter a payoff target or reach the bottom of the playfield.

Newer "pachislot" machines have a digital slot machine display on a large screen, where the objective is to get three numbers or symbols in a row for a jackpot.[citation needed] When fired, the balls drop through an array of pins, similar to a pachinko machine. Some fall into a center gate and activate the slot-machine display.

To enhance gameplay, modern machines have integrated several aspects not possible in vintage machines. A common one is the ability to switch between different play modes, including rare and hidden modes that can differ significantly from normal play. Two examples can be seen in the Evangelion series of pachinko machines, which include Mission Mode and Berserker Mode, ranging from having little effect on winning to being an almost guaranteed win.[16][17]

After the payout mode has ended, the pachinko machine may do one of two things. Most Pachinko machines employ the kakuhen (確変, short for kakuritsu hendō (確率変動) meaning probability change) system, where some percentage of the possible jackpots on the digital slot machine result in the odds of hitting the next jackpot multiplying by a large amount, followed by another spin regardless of the outcome. The probability of a kakuhen occurring is determined by a random number generator.

When a jackpot does not result in a kakuhen combination, the pachinko machine will enter into jitan (時短, short for jikan tanshuku (時間短縮) meaning time-reduction) mode, with a much larger number of spins than kakuhen. Under the original payout odds, the center gate widens to make it considerably easier for balls to fall into it; this system is also present in kakuhen.

To compensate for the increase in the number of spins, the digital slot machine produces the final outcomes of each spin faster. ST pachinko machines do not offer this mode; after it ends, the machine spins as in kakuhen. Once no more jackpots have been made, the pachinko machine reverts to its original setting.

Starting in 2007, the majority of Japanese pachinko machines started to include koatari (小当たり, small jackpot) into their payout systems. Koatari is shorter than the normal jackpot and during payout mode the payout gate opens for a short time only, even if no balls go into it. The timing of the opening of the gates is unpredictable, effectively making it a jackpot where the player receives no payout. Koatari jackpots can result in a kakuhen as per normal operation, depending on the payout scheme of the machine in question. The main purpose of koatari is so that pachinko manufacturers can offer payout schemes that appear to be largely favorable to customers, without losing any long-term profit.

In addition to being able to offer higher kakuhen percentages, this made it possible for manufacturers to design battle-type machines. Unlike old-fashioned pachinko machines that offer a full payout or a kakuhen for any type of jackpot earned, these machines require players to hit a kakuhen jackpot with a certain probability in order to get a full payout. This is orchestrated by the player entering into "battle", where the player, in accordance with the item that the machine is based on, must "defeat" a certain enemy or foe in order to earn another kakuhen. If the player loses, it means that a normal koatari has been hit and the machine enters into jitan mode.

Besides the special prizes, prizes may be as simple as chocolate bars, pens or cigarette lighters, or as complicated as electronics, bicycles and other items. Under Japanese law, cash cannot be paid out directly for pachinko balls, but there is usually a small establishment located nearby, separate from the game parlor but sometimes in a separate unit as part of the same building, where players may sell special prizes for cash. This is tolerated by the police because the pachinko parlors that pay out goods and special prizes are nominally independent from the shops that buy back the special prizes.[1]

Some pachinko parlors may even give out vouchers for groceries at a nearby supermarket. The yakuza (organized crime) were formerly often involved in prize exchange, but a great deal of police effort beginning in the 1960s and ramping up in the 1990s has largely done away with their influence.[6] In Tokyo, the special prize exchange is handled exclusively by the Tokyo Union Circulation [jp] company (known as TUC), which sells pachinko and slot parlors gold slivers in standardized plastic cases, which it buys back from winning customers at its "TUC Shop" windows.[19]

The three-shop system[20] is a system employed by pachinko parlors to exchange for keihin (prizes), usually with items such as cigarette lighters or ball-point pens. These items are carried to a nearby shop and exchanged for cash as a way of circumventing gambling laws.

Many arcade video games in Japan feature pachinko models from different times. They offer more playing time for the same amount of money, and have balls that can be exchanged only for game tokens to play other games in the establishment. As many of these arcades are smoke-free and gambling is removed, they are popular venues for casual players, newcomers, children, and those wanting to play in a more relaxed atmosphere.

In such arcades, thrifty gamblers may spend a small amount on a newly released pachinko model to get a feel for the machine before going to a real parlor. These machines can also be found in many stores, where they pay out capsules containing a prize coupon or store credit. 041b061a72


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