The Japanese government has begun to consider legalizing soccer and baseball sports betting in the near future. The possibility of legalizing sports betting for professional baseball and soccer in Japan was reported by the Financial Times (FT) on the 28th April, citing two anonymous people familiar with the matter.

According to media reports, a sports betting market with an estimated annual scale of over $ 65 billion (about 7.1 trillion yen) will be created for both professional soccer and baseball if legalized. Betting for the J League has already been partially legalized through a pool betting system. However, the ban on sports betting for professional baseball and soccer may be lifted in 2024 if the legislators getting their act together.

Toyota Stadium

FT said that the opposition to sports gambling was weakened by the economic blow to the professional sports world due to COVID-19 pandemic, as a person familiar with the situation said. Japan’s professional sports industry has endured huge financial difficulty in the past one year since the pandemic erupted last spring. The absence of paying audiences and cancellation of all sport events have resulted in significant revenue losses for sport industry. This is one of the main catalyst why tapping into the lucrative sports betting market might making sense for legislators and sport industry as a whole.

In addition, overseas online sports betting and online casinos that illegally bet on Japanese professional sports are said to have annual turnover of around 4.33 trillion yen. This has made the government lose out on potential tax revenue.

Further legalization could seen as a continuation of the deregulation of the gaming market in 2019 for Japan, which saw plans for setting up casino resorts across the country given the thumbs up by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with a setting in Osaka possibly set to open in 2024.