May 12, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Need money for college?  Stop by a pachinko parlor. 

According to the Japan Times, Tadamasa Fukiura, chairman of a nonprofit has connected with six pachinko parlors to offer the “pp Shogakukin” scholarship fund.

How does it work?  Customers at any of the six parlors can donate their steel balls from their winnings to help put needy students through university. 

Fukiura said, “A lot of students have to take aprt-time jos.  We want them to be able to concentrate on their studies.”

What’s pachinko?  It’s a game in which players feed small steel balls into a mechanical cabinet so that they can release more steel balls.  These can be traded for prizes—and cash.  Each ball has a value of about 4 yen, or 3.5 cents. 

At the end of last year, pp Shogakukin put donation boxes at over 40 pachinko parlors around the country.  Students over the age of 18 can apply for fudning, with financial need and academic performance the top criteria.  This past march, eight students each received anywhere from about $250 to $450.

Several of the country’s leading Pachinko parlor operators, like Maruhan and Sankyo are participating.  Why? 

A Maruhan spokesperson said, “We are a company in the entertainment industry that provides a service to our customers, and that is how we generate revenue. We don’t consider giving something back to society to be an ethical problem.”

Others disagree.  While not classified as gambling, pachinko has a reputation that suggests otherwise.  Critics see this move as a way for pachinko players to improve their image. 

Noriko Tanaka, president of the Society Concerned About the Gambling Addiction, based in Tokyo, said, “In my opinion, the pachinko industry is just trying to boost its image. The pachinko industry is under attack and has come in for a lot of criticism. A lot of people think that pachinko is not a good thing. In particular, people think that the pachinko industry is doing nothing to combat gambling addiction,” Tanaka said. “So I think this pp Shogakukin is just something to improve its image.”

Read more about studying in Japan.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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