One in 11 Japanese people play pachinko at least once a week, concludes a report on the game.

Pachinko is an upright pinball, with steel balls that fall into value-related cups. Technically an "amusement with prizes," as the balls won are taken and exchanged for goods, it is in reality a gambling machine as the prizes are exchanged for cash in nearby specialist shops.

Every year, Japanese pachinko players spend US$200bn on the game, or 30 times the average gambling revenue of Las Vegas, says the report, carried in Yogonet. The figure is double that of Japan’s export car industry and more than the entire gross domestic product of New Zealand.

There are 10,600 pachinko parlours in Japan, containing around 4.6 million machines, says the report, alluding to an interview with Min Jin Lee, author of a new historical fiction set in Japan simply named Pachinko.

The interview names Dynam with 400 parlours as one of the bigger operators. Most of the country’s pachinko arcades are Korean-owned but the game is age-related. Younger players are not coming to the locations and as a result the number of pachinko parlours has reduced by a third since 2005.

Additionally, regulations have been introduced to try to reduce the appeal of the game, cutting its maximum payout so that a player would probably never win more than US$450 in a four-hour session. The ban on casinos has also now been lifted and that should provide competition.

Nevertheless, each year 1.5 million new pachinko machines are sold to operators, says the Financial Times.