Ichiban Kuji Debuts in the UK

By Vidhi Sharma
April 16, 2024
7 min read

Ichiban Kuji Debuts in the UK

A Fun Lottery or a Dangerous Gamble?

Whilst navigating the large crowd and perusing the many stalls, colours, cosplayers, panels, and artists this year at a large comic convention, I was enticed and enthralled by the bright red Bandai Namco (Banpresto) booth. There was a queue of excited patrons (of all ages), staff cheerfully apologising for the wait, whist enthusiastically hyping the queue, the ringing of bells and a cheering crowd. I joined the queue excited to see it was an Ichiban Kuji game! Usually only operated in Japan, this was a British debut!

Ichiban Kuji (一番くじ) is a Japanese lottery game operated by Banpresto. It is a "sure win" lottery, meaning that everyone who buys a ticket is guaranteed to win a prize. The prizes are typically based on popular anime, manga, and video game franchises. Prizes are categorised in value from A to D (depending on the number of prizes this can go to as many letters of the alphabet as required), and are often “blind” boxes or bags. This means you do not choose the colour, design or character of your prize; it is allocated at random.

For £12 a ticket I was guaranteed to win a prize from a popular anime that you cannot get in any stores. I also had the chance to win a “Last One” figurine of a character, this is a rare, unique, one-of-a-kind figure or prize. However, the booth shouldn’t have been the only red in my mind, as post-con I realised the many red flags I should have seen.

  •  The queue of patrons extended behind a wall, and though you could see a poster detailing the odds for each different anime’s lottery, the print was so small you could hardly read it.
  •  You could not see the possible prizes from the queue, you would have to leave the queue and walk round, get through the crowd and peer over shoulders to see the prizes available.
  •  You had to purchase your ticket, peel-and-reveal your prize, and be given your prize before the next person could buy their ticket.
  •  Each ticket cost £12, and the odds of winning something of greater or equal value were low (<10%*)
  •  Tickets were being sold to patrons of all ages.
  •  There were no safer gambling signs or compliance.

*A typical Ichiban Kuji had between 60-80 tickets, of which there are usually less than 6 prizes of that value or higher, therefore less than 10%

Example prize and odds posters from Kuji Connect. Once a prize is claimed, staff stick the winning tickets on the relevant box, showing it was no longer available. However, these posters are not always up to date.

Why is it like gambling?

Kuji lotteries can be considered a form of gambling due to certain elements they share with traditional gambling activities.

  1. They are chance based.

Like most forms of gambling, Kuji lotteries rely heavily on chance. Participants purchase tickets without knowing which specific prize they will receive. The outcome is determined by random selection, and individuals have no control over the result.

 2. There is financial risk.

Participants invest money in the hope of winning a desirable prize. The purchase of tickets involves a financial risk, as there is no guarantee of receiving a prize of equal or greater value than the ticket price. Some individuals may spend significant amounts of money trying to win specific items, increasing the potential for financial loss.

 3. They generate excitement and anticipation.

Akin to gambling, Kuji lotteries generate excitement, anticipation, and the thrill of uncertain outcomes. The element of surprise and the potential for obtaining rare or valuable items contribute to the emotional appeal and addictive nature associated with gambling.

 4 . There is a desire for profit.

While the primary motivation for participating in Kuji lotteries is often the enjoyment of collecting merchandise or supporting a favourite franchise, some individuals may view it as an opportunity to make a profit. Rare or highly sought-after prizes can be resold at a higher price, attracting speculators who aim to profit from the secondary market.

It's important to note that not all aspects of Kuji lotteries are directly comparable to traditional forms of gambling, such as casino games or sports betting. The main difference lies in the absence of monetary winnings and the focus on obtaining collectible items. Nonetheless, the presence of chance, financial risk, and the potential for addiction classifies Kuji lotteries as a form of gambling, within their own context.

What about regulations?

In Japan, certain Kuji lotteries are regulated under the country's laws and regulations on gambling, however as this is a very new form of lottery, Ichiban Kuji and similar types of lotteries are not currently regulated in the UK.

There are several laws and regulations that could apply to Ichiban Kuji, including:

  • The Gambling Act 2005: This law regulates gambling in the UK. It is possible that Ichiban Kuji could be considered a form of gambling under this law.
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008: These regulations prohibit businesses from engaging in unfair or misleading trading practices. It is possible that Ichiban Kuji could be engaging in unfair or misleading trading practices if they do not clearly disclose the odds of winning a prize.

 

Why stop there, what about lotteries and raffles for kids at school?

It is important to assess lotteries and raffles, as they are a form of gambling. However, not all require extensive regulation and legislation.

“Fundraising, raffles, and lotteries are all forms of gambling, and you must follow the rules for the type of lottery you plan to run, otherwise you may be breaking the law.”

The Gambling Commission (https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/)

There are many factors the Gambling Commission must consider when deciding if a raffle or lottery is gambling or not. These factors include the ticket price, odds of winning, prizes offered, and target audience.

Price and Odds

There are guidelines for schools that are running lotteries, stating the ticket price should not be more than £2 and that the odds of winning should be at least 1 in 10 (≥10%).

  • In the Ichiban Kuji example, a single ticket cost £12, with odds of winning a prize of near equal or greater value lower than 1 in 10 (<10%).

Prizes Offered

The value of the prizes on offer must be considered. If the prizes are very valuable, then the lottery may be considered gambling even if the ticket price is low.

  • In the Ichiban Kuji example, there were no monetary prizes, however the prizes were rare and unique collectibles, potentially with a very high resale value.

Target Audience

The target audience for a lottery can also affect whether it is considered gambling. If the lottery is targeted at children, then it is more likely to be considered gambling. This is because children are more vulnerable to the risks of gambling, and they may not fully understand the odds of winning.

  • In the Ichiban Kuji example, the lottery was marketed to patrons of all ages. Specific to children, there were bright colours, eye catching graphics, simple language, entertainment and fun, encouragement for children to participate, and collectible prizes from media popular with children (titles at the convention were from several highly popular shows, including Dragon Ball Z, Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia, and Spy x Family).

Concluding thoughts?

It is important to be aware of safer gambling practices, and while Ichiban Kuji is not currently regulated in the UK, other forms of lotteries such as raffles in schools, do need to follow guidelines and have several factors considered. As Ichiban Kuji and other forms of lottery increase in their popularity, we need to be aware of the gambling risks and concerns they present. Whether they become fully regulated and legislated remains a debate, however, as they are often marketed to children and offer risks to vulnerable individuals, this would be a step in the right direction. While Ichiban Kuji may be a fun way to try to win some exclusive merchandise, it is important to remember that there is always a risk of losing money when you gamble.

Key Terms

Anime - A style of animation that originated in Japan and has gained international popularity. It encompasses a wide range of animated works, including television series, films, and web series.

Bandai Namco (Banpresto) - A Japanese toy and entertainment company known for its wide range of products, including toys, video games, trading cards, model kits, and anime-related merchandise.

Cosplay - Refers to the practice of dressing up and portraying a character from a fictional source, such as anime, manga, video games, movies, or other forms of popular media.

Kuji Lottery Game - A ‘sure win’ lottery where every ticket wins a prize of varying value. A popular way for fans of anime, manga, and video games to get their hands on exclusive merchandise.