Japan’s police and Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) have released a joint warning that gambling on offshore websites is a criminal act, implying that long-standing de facto impunity for affiliate websites may be under threat.
The National Police Agency (NPA) and the CAA on Monday (October 24) released a public advertisement warning against gambling on card games, roulette, slots and other online games.
Amid cartoon graphics of the games on a hand-held mobile phone, the ad describes punishments ranging from a fine of ¥500,000 ($3,450) for simple online offences to a maximum three years in prison for extended gambling activity, including facilitating the gambling of others.
“Connecting to online casinos to gamble while in Japan is a criminal offence,” the ad says, and includes a QR code linking to an NPA webpage that expands on the statement.
That webpage states that legal foreign operations remain off limits for people in Japan, even for personal use, and warns that arrests have been made for connecting to overseas websites.
In a “crackdown status” list of police cases relating to online gambling, the NPA site refers to 18 cases in 2019, 16 cases in 2020 and 16 cases in 2021.
However, details of the cases and their conviction status are not shown, nor is the possible involvement of Japan’s all-important affiliate sites or what came of them in any prosecution.
In a much briefer and slightly differently worded warning on the CAA website, readers are informed that ignorance of the law is not an excuse when gambling online. Both sites add: “Gambling is a crime. Just don’t do it.”
Monday’s joint public announcement serves as further evidence that the CAA will be part of any legislative or regulatory response to a shift in online gambling policy.
Police, prosecutors, the courts and the political world have so far been reluctant to engage in a systemic crackdown on the aggressive expansion of online gambling in Japan.
This reluctance has extended to affiliate websites — Japanese-language promotional and gaming instruction resources that have been key to the success of the industry and growing European engagement with the Japanese market.
The significance of the CAA’s involvement was flagged in 2021 when it began an investigation into affiliate websites across all sectors, with an emphasis on consumer goods and services.
Those investigations have now concluded, with the final CAA meeting on the subject in late January this year and reports into affiliate policy suggestions released soon after.
However, it remains unclear how the CAA will deal with the gaming issue in particular, with a search of the reports showing no immediate evidence of changes to policy or regulations on gambling affiliates in response to the reports.
The CAA had previously launched an investigation into user complaints relating to at least one gambling affiliate website, and intervened by ordering the operation to close down for 15 months.