Pachinko is an 'amusement arcade' type machine that is popular throughout Japan, with an estimated 17.1 million 'players' providing an enormous annual revenue of 2.87 trillion yen (US$250 billion). It is simple and easy to play and has all the hallmarks and structural features of gaming machines worldwide. While academic discourses on the addictive potential of gaming machines are well developed, their application to pachinko is very limited. This is, perhaps, due to a number of factors. First, pachinko is portrayed as a game rather than as gambling in Japan, so that addiction issues are ignored or downplayed. Second, most accounts of 'playing' pachinko are journalistic rather than academic. Third, academics tend to focus on police corruption and organized crime rather than addiction. Here, we take the approach that pachinko represents 'gambling by proxy' and explore its addictive potential. We conclude that unless pachinko is recognized as a form of gambling, present changes in Japanese legislation will be of limited value in tackling addiction.