Japanese basketball fans may finally get the chance to legally bet on their favorite B-league team in the coming year. In December last year, an amendment law was enacted to include basketball in the Japanese sports lottery (toto).
Japanese sports lottery (toto)
The Japanese sports lottery is run by the Japan Sport Council (JSC) under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Sales revenue of the lottery in 2020 was approximately 101.7 billion yen. Currently, the Japanese sports lottery is limited to soccer and mainly J-League. The available markets are pre-match results (win/draw/lose) only. So the offerings are extremely limited in comparison to international betting sites like bet365, which is also gaining popularity in Japan. Japanese soccer betting still remains in the scope of a lottery rather than a sports betting, with the legal provision of its primary aim as promoting sports in general.
The proceeds of the sports lottery are a source of subsidies for sports events and competitions, training athletes and instructors, as well as maintaining and improving local sports facilities. So the purchase of a sports lottery is considered not only an entertainment but also contributions to the funds to support and promote local sports in general. In other words, Japanese soccer betting is intended for those who just want to have a little more fun when watching soccer games, but not for passionate gamblers.
Legal options of B-League betting
The legal amendment to include basketball is primarily aimed at increasing sales and securing stable financial resources for the subsidies. In anticipation of a decrease in national sports subsidies after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a working team of the JSC was looking for ways to improve sales. This move also came in response to the financial challenges the domestic sports market is facing, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the revised law to add B-league to the lottery, the available markets will also be expanded to include scores, team rankings, tournament results, in addition to match results (win/lose).
This revision of the sports lottery law can be seen as a big step, considering generally strict regulations of sports betting in Japan. Legal options of sports betting in the country are limited to public gambling (horse racing, boat racing, bicycle racing, auto racing) and the sports lottery. All of these are legalized with the provisions of special laws. Nevertheless, in order to justify and maintain its special legal status, a high degree of public interest is required for domestic gambling operations. This makes the return set by Japanese gambling options significantly lower than overseas bookmakers. To put it another way, B-League betting in the form of a sports lottery is less attractive in terms of return than offshore betting sites.
Promotions of B-League
Expansion of the sports lottery to include other sports such as baseball has been discussed in the past years and this time, B-League became the choice. Currently, the B-League is embarking on a bold structural reform. From the 2026-27 season, it is expected that the promotion and demotion of teams based on competition results will be abolished and a new method will be introduced to divide categories according to the size of the club’s business. According to Shinji Shimada, the chairman of B-League, ” It has a big goal of aiming for the second largest league in the world after the US professional NBA.” The entry of the B-league to the sports lottery is also expected to vitalize and boost domestic interests in the league.