Overseas Sites Allow Betting on Japanese High School Baseball Championships

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An image of a foreign website captured on March 25, promoting betting on National High School Baseball Championship in Japan

At least 11 gambling websites were operating overseas to allow betting for Japanese on the outcome of this spring’s National High School Baseball Championship, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. Although betting on such sites is illegal in Japan, it is difficult to penalize foreign betting site operators. Measures need to be taken against betting on high school baseball games, as they are part of the education.

At odds of over 100

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun tally, at least 11 gambling sites were online as of March 18, the opening day of the baseball tournament, which was held until March 31. All the sites were run in Japanese and claimed that they have gambling business licenses issued in either Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean Island, or the Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea.

On the websites, bettors deposit money to site operators through payment service providers in order to bet on odds set based on predictions of the winner of each game and the championship. One of the odds set was was more than 100. Payouts are transferred to a bank account or other account of the bettor in Japan by the payment service providers.

Some of the social media posts believed to have been made by those who made bets on the sites said, “I’m from Hyogo Prefecture, so I’ll bet on Hotoku [Gakuen High School]” and “[Aomori] Yamada [High School] is good in terms of odds.”

Asked by The Yomiuri Shimbun in writing whether they were aware of the illegality of the operations, two of 11 site operators said that their legal nature is clarified on their websites. But corresponding statements could not be confirmed. The remaining nine did not respond. There are experts who say that the number of such sites is increasing year by year.

On April 2, a site in which people can bet on whether a particular high school will be able to participate in this summer’s National High School Baseball Championship was confirmed.

The Osaka-based Japan High School Baseball Federation said it is aware that high school baseball is now being bet on. “It is very regrettable that high school club activities are being exploited,” a federation official said.

Betting from Japan illegal

In Japan, both the organizing and the acts of gambling other than those of horse racing and other publicly operated games is prohibited under the Penal Code. The National Police Agency regards the placing of bets on online casino and other overseas gambling sites from Japan as illegal. There have been several cases in which those who made such bets have been charged on suspicion of simple or habitual gambling.

Since the law is not applied to overseas site operators, however, it is difficult for police to crack down on them.

Due to this, sports betting for Japanese professional baseball and J-League soccer games has long been conducted on foreign sites. High school baseball is expected to be harmed if students become the subject of gambling.

“Anything can be bet on in some other countries, regardless of whether minors are involved. In order to stop the practice, it is necessary to take measures to regulate them in Japan,” said Takashi Kiso, president of the International Casino Institute Ltd. who is well versed in global gambling.

It is said that it is difficult to regulate the use of the websites in Japan unless site operators deny access to the websites from Japan. Experts said legislation is necessary to regulate the illegal gambling sites.