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Jun 21, 2018

Japan to Allow Poker in Casinos – But with One Catch

By RTR Dennis

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Japan is still in the process of defining their integrated resorts (IR) bill, which will see multibillion-dollar casinos built in the country. And one of the strangest debates lawmakers was whether or not to allow poker.

Mainichi reports that the Japanese government has decided against banning poker from their integrated resorts. The only problem is that there's one particular rule that could threaten the game's popularity. Let's discuss what this catch is along with why the government decided to allow poker.

Japanese Poker Rooms Won't Allow Friends at Tables

One key point of the IR legislation is that casino operators must be able to guarantee fair gaming. But it's slightly harder to do with poker games like Texas hold'em and Omaha, because these are player-vs-player affairs.

Japan's government never give an official reason why they wanted to ban poker. But it's likely that they think poker will be harder to monitor than other casino games.

Regardless of the reasoning, rounders will be able to enjoy themselves in Japanese casinos. However, there’s one rule that not everybody will be pleased with.

Friends and other acquaintances won’t be allowed to play at the same poker table. Lawmakers hope that by preventing acquaintances from playing together, this will reduce the amount of cheating that takes place. Furthermore, dealers will be tasked with choosing players from the waiting list to join their table.

Casinos will be given final decision on what games they allow in their establishments. This means that while poker may be legal in the country, casinos don't have to offer this game if they don't want to.

Will Japan's Poker Rules Hurt the Game?

Japan's poker market seems more stringent than the rest of the world. This isn't the first country to try preventing friends from sitting at tables together. But other casinos have found that this rule works against them.

Many poker players like to play with acquaintances. Therefore, preventing them from doing so stands to make the game less popular.

Another problem is the matter of actually being able to identify acquaintances. Skilled cheaters are good at pretending like they don't know their colluding partner(s). In the end, casinos may just be preventing friends from playing together while not really doing anything to stop cheating.

It's also worth mentioning that many poker cheaters get exposed eventually anyways. The players themselves are often good at catching perpetrators. This means that keeping acquaintances separated isn't entirely necessary.

What do Japanese Lawmakers Like about Poker?

While the reasons for why Japan wanted to ban poker are speculative, the reason why they chose to allow it is not. The Japanese government is convinced that the game will bolster tourism.

Major poker tournament organizations like the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and Triton Poker Series are highly successful at drawing crowds to host cities. In turn, this brings thousands of players to hotels, restaurants, and stores.

The primary reason for passing the IR bill is to bolster their tourism—not provide casino gambling for Japanese citizens. Case in point, foreigners will get into the casino resorts for free, while locals have to pay admission.

Allowing poker tournaments fits into this vision, because it will be yet another aspect that increases the country's volume of visitors.

Considering that Japan is already one of the most-popular vacation destinations, it figures to be a hot spot for major tournament organizations.