By Minami Funakoshi TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s once-booming pachinko industry, grappling with a greying customer base and the threat of new competition from casinos, is adopting a softer touch and smoke-free zones to lure a new generation of players, particularly women. To try and reverse the trend, some pachinko operators have built spacious, airy parlours designed to attract more women and younger players to a pastime tarred by its association in the public mind with older and idle men given to chain smoking. Catering to different tastes to boost an industry that still sees some $185 billion wagered annually, machines in pachinko parlours now feature anime characters, games and idols, ranging from all-girl group AKB48 to Resident Evil, a video game blockbuster by Capcom Co that was made into a Hollywood film. “We’re trying to change the image of pachinko as loud, smoke-ridden and male-dominated,” said Tomoko Murouchi, a spokeswoman for one of the largest operators, Dynam Japan Holdings.
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