A new initiative by Japan’s esports industry hopes to sidestep the country’s strict gambling laws, by issuing special “pro licenses” for specific players. Unlike Western events, Japanese tournaments cannot issue cash prizes generated by entrance/venue fees, with outside sponsors only allowed to provide meager prize pools — so long as they do not directly benefit from the success of the event. Some tournaments have sidestepped the law by issuing prizes like a huge bag of rice, but it doesn’t allow Japanese players to make a living from competition. By delineating between pros and amateurs, this initiative could result in a boom for the Japanese esports industry, as players could be paid out like athletes and sports stars.
This initiative comes as a collaboration between several large Japanese esports organizations, in an attempt to establish a regulatory body for the country’s industry. At present, the plan is to issue the first batch of pro licenses at JAEPO 2018 (Japan Amusement Expo) for a select number of games. Five games have been selected as part of the first phase of this program, with Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 being among this line-up.
It is unknown at this time how exactly players can apply for a pro license, and what requirements you must fulfill in order to be eligible for a license. As for foreign players who wish to compete at Japanese tournaments, it is unclear if you will need to apply for your own pro license in order to receive potential tournament winnings.
Expect more information to come from JAEPO 2018, when this initiative is put into action.