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Japanese Horse Betting – The JRA’s Fears

The Japanese horse-racing establishment is one of the modern empires of Japanese high society. Throughout the past decade, the Japan Racing Association (JRA) has enjoyed stability and security as its revenue topped an unimaginable 3.2 trillion yen a year. But now, the mighty JRA is shuttering at the feet of the online bookmakers that earn their living from Japanese horse bettors.

Several online bookies offer odds on Japanese races, and some derive their entire subsistence by targeting Japanese punters; and as Japanese authorities confirm, only online sportsbook operators based in Japan are targeted by prosecutors. Admittedly, offshore and European bookmakers are beyond the reach of Japanese gaming control.

But being beyond the arm of the law is not stopping the JRA from trying to erect new barriers to protect its pony monopoly. In response to foreign Internet competition, the JRA is initiating international agreements with organizations like the Hong Kong Jockey Club to clearly demarcate the boundaries of each country’s horse racing authority and to collude against intruders. Once that has been done, the JRA believes that it may be better equipped to stop non-Japanese companies from taking Japanese bets.

But punters fear that this is bad news for their bankroll. Offshore and European bookmakers offer more competitive odds than punters receive from within Japan. The more competitive odds has brought an estimated 14 billion yen a year in bets out of Japan into the hands of foreign bookmakers. But it is not a lack of national pride that brings the money offshore, it is merely the fact that odds are up to 10% more favourable online, so market forces and better value are the punter’s decision drivers.

The JRA has recently been in contact with authorities in the West and are spearheading international collusion against offering online horse racing on jurisdictionally controlled events. In an ideal world, the JRA would like bookmakers to voluntarily give up the Japanese horse racing market. But with revenues proving substantial and with bookmakers taking a “Robin Hood” stance against the might of the JRA, it appears unlikely that online operators will succumb to the JRA’s pleas. Several online bookmakers believe that the Internet is the great market equalizer, and as long as the punter has a choice at where to bet, he will invariably take the best odds available. Sorry JSA, but they say that the punter deserves a better deal.
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