About Pachinko


About Pachinko

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (wikipedia.org)

Pachinko is a game originating in Japan and is used as both a form of recreational arcade game and much more frequently as a gambling device, filling a niche in gambling in Japan comparable to that of the slot machine in Western gambling. A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinball machine, but has no flippers and uses a large number of small balls. The player fires balls into the machine, which then cascade down through a dense forest of pins. If the balls go into certain locations, they may be captured and sequences of events may be triggered that result in more balls being released. The object of the game is to capture as many balls as possible. These balls can then be exchanged for prizes. Pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, but modern ones have incorporated extensive electronics, becoming similar to video slot machines.

Pachinko machines are widespread in establishments called parlors, which usually also feature a number of slot machines (called pachislo or pachislots); hence, these venues operate and look similar to casinos. Modern pachinko machines are highly customizable, keeping enthusiasts continuously entertained. Since gambling for money is illegal in Japan, balls won cannot be exchanged directly for money in the parlor; instead the balls are exchanged for tokens or prizes, which are then taken outside and exchanged for cash at a place nominally separate from the parlor.

The Japanese government estimates the annual revenues of the pachinko and pachislot industry are in the region of ¥29 trillion (US$300 billion) thereby indicating the popularity of these games. This is approximately four times the total profit of world-wide legal casino gambling each year.

History

Pachinko machines were first built during the 1920s as a children’s toy called the “Corinth game”, based on and named after the American “Corinthian bagatelle”. It emerged as an adult pastime in Nagoya around 1930 and spread from there. 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. As a country influenced by Japan during its occupation, Taiwan has many pachinko establishments.

Until the 1980s, pachinko machines were mechanical devices, 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. 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. After that time, pachinko machines incorporated more electronic features, thus requiring electricity for operation.

Ownership

The majority of pachinko shops are owned by Zainichi Koreans in Japan; according to the South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, 90% of the 16,000–17,000 pachinko shops in Japan are owned by them. Japanese ownership was the majority in the beginning, however, to reduce problem gambling in 1954, automatic fire pachinko machines were banned causing most Japanese manufacturers to leave the market to Zainichi Koreans, a high ratio that remains to this day.

Mechanism

There are many types of pachinko machines but most are based on the bean machine. To play pachinko, players get metal balls by inserting cash or cards directly into the machine they want to use. These balls are then shot into the machine from a ball tray with the purpose of attempting to win more balls. There is a digital slot machine on a large screen in the center of the system and the objective of this part is to get 3 numbers or symbols in a row for a jackpot.

Older pachinko machines had a spring-loaded lever for shooting the balls individually, but newer ones use a round knob that controls the strength of an electrically fired plunger that shoots the balls onto the playing field. When shot, the balls drop through an array of pins; some of them will fall into the center gate and start up the slot machine in the center screen. Every ball that goes into the center gate results in one spin of the slot machine, but there is a limit on the number of spins at one time because of the possibility of balls passing through the center gate while a spin is still in progress. Each spin pays out a small number of balls, but the objective is to hit the jackpot. The program of the digital slot machine decides the outcome of the spin when the ball falls through the center gate, not when the spinning animation plays.

Payout mode

If the first 2 numbers or letters of the spin match up, the digital program will display many animations before the third reel stops spinning, to give the player added excitement. Pachinko machines offer different odds in hitting a jackpot; if the player manages obtain a jackpot the machine will enter into payout mode.

The payout mode lasts for a number of rounds. During each round, amidst more animations and movies playing on the center screen, a large payout gate opens up at the bottom of the machine layout and the player must try to shoot balls into it. Each ball that successfully enters into this gate results in a large number of balls being dropped into a separate tray at the bottom of the machine, which can then be placed into a ball bucket.

Post-payout systems

After the payout mode has ended, the pachinko machine may do one of two things. Most Pachinko machines employ the kakuhen 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. Hence, under this system, it is possible for a player to get a string of consecutive jackpots after the first “hard earned” one, commonly referred to as “fever mode”. Another type of kakuhen system is the special time or ST kakuhen. With these machines, every jackpot earned results in a kakuhen, but in order to earn a payout beyond the first jackpot, the player must hit a certain set of odds within a given amount of spins.

When a jackpot does not result in a kakuhen combination, the pachinko machine will enter into jitan 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.

Koatari

Starting in 2007, the majority of Japanese pachinko machines started to include koatari 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, koatari 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 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.

Another reason for incorporating koataris is that they make it possible for a machine to go into kakuhen mode without the player’s knowledge. This is referred to as senpuku (‘hidden’) kakuhen because it does not occur in any of the jackpot modes. A player sitting at a used pachinko machine offering a 1 in x chance of hitting a jackpot in normal mode can hit it within x spins easily because the previous player did not realize that the machine was in senpuku. This induces players to keep playing their machines, even though they may still be in normal mode. Japanese pachinko players have not shown significant signs of protest in response to the incorporation of koatari; on the contrary, battle-type pachinko machines have become a major part of most parlors.

Design

Pachinko machines vary in several aspects, including decoration, music, modes and gates. Most machines have customizable settings inside them, accessible by parlour workers only, to pay out more balls or increase the multiplier settings and mode lengths, for example, allowing a high level of customization. Different parlours have different types of machines with different settings, so enthusiasts may switch parlours if they are unsatisfied with any particular one. The most common difference between pachinko machines is their payout: older machines are difficult to get jackpots from but pay out a lot, whereas the newer machines are easier to win on but pay out less. Hence, the older machines are the choice of hard gamblers while the newer ones suit people who do not want to make a profit.

Prizes

Winnings take the form of additional balls, which players may either use to keep playing or exchange for tokens (typically slits of gold encased in plastic), vouchers or other prizes. When players wish to exchange their winnings, they must call a parlor staff member by using a call button located at the top of their station. The staff member will then carry the player’s balls to an automated counter to see how many balls they have. After recording the number of balls the player won and the number of the machine they used, the staff member will then give the player a voucher or card with the number of balls stored in it. The player then hands it in at the parlor’s exchange center to get their tokens or prizes.

Prizes may be as simple as 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 exchange center located nearby, separate from the game parlor but sometimes in a separate unit as part of the same building, where players may exchange their winnings for cash. This is tolerated by the police because the pachinko parlors that pay out goods and tokens are independent from the exchange centers that trade the tokens in for cash. 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 way with their influence.

Recreational pachinko

Many video arcades in Japan feature pachinko models from different times. They offer more playing time for a certain amount of money spent and have balls exchanged for game tokens, which can only be used to play other games in the establishment. As many of these arcades are smoke-free and the gambling is removed, this is popular for casual players, children, and those wanting to play in a more relaxed atmosphere. Thrifty gamblers may spend a small amount on a newly released model in such establishments to get the feel for the machine before going to a real parlor. The same machines can be found in many stores, with the difference being that they pay out capsules containing a prize coupon or store credit.

Regulations

Etiquette

In Japan, there are many unwritten rules of conduct for pachinko players and everyone is expected to conform to them or be asked to leave that particular establishment. Parlor staff members are also not supposed to tell a player where they can exchange their tokens for cash because of legality issues, so players are expected to find out this information on their own. It is taboo to touch another player’s winnings. Additionally, players are not allowed to take over a pachinko machine if there are personal possessions that belong to another player in the tray, such as a cell phone or a box of cigarettes. Smoking is allowed in parlors, although there are discussions in Japan to extend public smoking bans to pachinko parlors.

Crime

Due to its borderline legality, pachinko has a close relationship with the police. When pachinko was accepted as a relatively harmless leisure activity in previous years, this was not the case. With the growing public and political pressure in recent years, since passage of Japan’s blanket anti-gambling law, the police are more active in regulating parlors. Retired officers often work in the pachinko parlor industry; critics have pointed out that while this has had a deterrent effect against organized crime involvement, it also means that these operators are in a strong position to influence currently active police officers in their favor.

The police tolerate the level of gambling in pachinko parlors. For example, in May 2005, a particular parlor in Kanagawa prefecture reported to the local police that someone had counterfeited their tokens and made off with the equivalent of US$60,000 in cash by trading them in at their nearby exchange center. Even with such information proving that this parlor was illegally operating an exchange center, which by law must be independent from the parlor, the police did not shut them both down, but instead only worked to track down the thief in question.

Ball designs

Pachinko balls are forbidden to be removed from a parlor to be used elsewhere. To help prevent this, many parlors have a design or name engraved in each ball vended so that someone can be spotted carrying a tray of balls brought from the outside. This has led some to start collections of pachinko balls with various designs.

Courtesy of wikipedia.org

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