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Esports champion loses thousands in protest of gambling law

How far would you go to protest a weird law? Would you give up tens of thousands of dollars, just to prove a point? That's what Street Fighter 5 pro Momochi did this past weekend, winning a tournament while also forfeiting over $45,000 in prize money.

It all comes down to the way professional gaming is treated in Japan.

You might be familiar with traditional forms of gambling; say, spinning the roulette wheel or pulling the lever on a slot machine. Japan has those types of gambling too, along with strict regulations on how much someone is able to win.

Here's the thing: for some reason, competitive video gaming is lumped right in there with slot machines and poker, even though those are games of chance and playing something like Street Fighter 5 requires skill. And that's forced third-party organizations like the Japanese eSports Union (or JeSU) to step up and offer "competitive gaming licenses" to those who compete so they can collect the full amount of their winnings.

Momochi doesn't agree with Japan's position that competitive gaming is a form of gambling. He also doesn't think an organization like the JeSU should be the sole body deciding who is a professional gamer and who is not. So Momochi has protested in the only way he can, really: he's competed in tournaments, performed well enough to earn a substantial sum of money, and then collected just a small slice of his winnings.

Last weekend's Asia Premier tournament had a first-place prize equivalent to $46,000, according to Kotaku. Momochi walked away as the winner, but due to Japan's laws and his protest of them, he'll only be getting $558. Ouch.

There's no word yet on whether Momochi's protest is having an impact on the competitive gaming laws in Japan. But kudos to him for seeing it through despite the hit his bank account is taking.

We'll update you if anything changes.