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Pachinko Pre-paid Card and Card Reader Unit
History and Technical Information

Operation of a CR machine.
Connection of card reader interface connector.
Pinout of D-25 card reader interface connector.
Card reader bypass dongle.
Modification of payout control board to permanently enable shooter handle.
Card reader emulator unit.


Pre-paid cards were introduced in Japanese pachinko parlours in the late 80's in an attempt to cut down on the fraud that is often rife in businesses that handle a lot of cash. The idea was that if the customer was required to buy a prepaid card to play pachinko then the supply of cards would add some traceability to the cash flows in the pachinko parlours and reduce the possibility of tax evasion and money laundering.

The early incarnations of this system required a ball loan unit to be placed next to each pachinko machine. The player obtained a pre-paid card from a seperate vending machine and placed it into the ball loan unit to obtain the balls necessary to play the machine (prior to this the ball loan units took cash directly).

In the early 90's pachinko manufacturers decided that it would be more efficient to use the pachinko machine itself for ball dispensing. As there is already a payout system for the prize balls in the machine, it would make sense to also use this payout system to dispense the balls instead of requiring a second payout system in the ball loan units. The first CR enabled machine was 'CR Flower Shop' which was introduced by Kyoraku in 1992. The introduction of CR enabled machines required the replacement of the ball loan units with a new card reader unit, and a standardised method of connecting them to the payout control system of the pachinko machine.

With the adoption of these Card Reader enabled (or 'CR') machines the industry regulators decided to provide an incentive for them to be adopted by the pachinko parlours. CR machines were allowed to have higher probability 'Kakuhen' and 'Chance' rounds which results in the players getting larger payouts due to back-to-back fever rounds. Many players began to prefer playing these machines over the fixed odds 'Cash' machines, and by the turn of the century the card systems had taken over most of the parlours, with almost all machine models available in CR versions. In recent years the vast majority of machines released are of the CR type and very few models are available as cash versions.


Of course the criminal element soon found a way to compromise these card systems, and in the early days of the pre-paid card system it was thought that there was more fraud due to the cards than there had been before they were introduced.

The companies that produced the first generation magnetic stripe cards thought that they had a secure system. The cards used more sophisticated materials than regular magnetic stripe cards, so were much more difficult to manufacture. The data on the cards was also encrypted, and depth multiplexing techniques were used to create multiple magnetic levels in the data to make it harder to copy.

Unfortunately this did not create much of a problem for the forgers, they didn't need to manufacture cards as they could simply use genuine ones that had been discarded after they had been used up. The encryption of the data was also not an issue, as they only needed to make a direct copy of the encrypted data from a genuine card. The physical reading and writing of the data caused problems for the forgers for a while, but card reader units were soon obtained, reverse engineered and eventually modified into card copying machines.

Using the forged cards in pachinko parlours was made easier by the way the system had been set up. Cards were purchased by the parlour owners for their full face value, they were then sold to players to use in the machines. After the credit had been deducted by the card reader unit, the card issuing companies would then reimburse the parlour owners for their value (minus a small commission). This provided no incentive for the parlour owners to prevent the use of forged cards, they would get the same payment from the card issuing companies whether the card was genuine or not. The threat of physical violence from the criminals using the forged cards often provided more of an incentive for the parlour owner to turn a blind eye to the activity. It was also reported that some of the less reputable parlour owners would use fake cards in their own parlours to help boost their profits.

Recently the magnetic stripe technology has given way to more modern card systems, and pre-paid cards are now using non-contact smartcards. The card readers are also networked and linked back to the card issuing companies for immediate verification. This has cut down on the opportunities for fraud (at least until these systems are compromised!), but some parlours are still operating the older systems.

Operation of a CR machine.

A card reader enabled pachinko machine will have two extra buttons near the shooter tray of the machine. The two buttons are the 'Ball Loan' button (usually the left most one of the two, marked with 玉貸 or 球貸) and 'Return' (返却). The ball loan button is used to deduct 100 Yen from the card and dispense 25 balls for each press. The return button is used to eject the pre-paid card from the card reader unit.

There will also be a three digit credit display on the machine, which is used to show the amount of credit left remaining on the pre-paid card inserted into the card reader unit. The display is often marked with '00円' to indicate that each count is worth 100 Yen. Adjacent to the credit display is a 'Ball Loan Available' LED, which will light when it is possible to dispense balls using the ball loan button.

Connection of card reader interface connector.

The card reader unit is connected to the CR enabled pachinko machine via a D-25 card reader interface connector on the back of the pachinko machine. The pachinko machine requires that a card reader unit is connected to this connector before the machine is able to operate fully (the ball shooter handle is disabled if a card reader unit is not connected).

On machines destined for home use, there is often a small 'CR bypass dongle' fitted to this connector to allow the shooter handle to be enabled, some other machines have a small modification made to the payout control circuit board to remove the connection requirement and permanently enable the shooter handle.

Pinout of D-25 Card Reader Interface Connector

Pin 1AC24Output 24VAC power from pachinko machine to card reader unit.
Pin 2PSIOutput Connection verification signal.
Pin 3SEG AInput Credit display segment A drive signal.
Pin 4SEG BInput Credit display segment B drive signal.
Pin 5SEG CInput Credit display segment C drive signal.
Pin 6SEG DInput Credit display segment D drive signal.
Pin 7SEG EInput Credit display segment E drive signal.
Pin 8LG (0v)Input Logic Ground
Pin 9LG (0v)Input Logic Ground
Pin 10TDLOInput Ball Loan Available LED signal
Pin 11BRDYInput Communication signal (card reader to pachinko).
Pin 12EXSOutput Communication signal (pachinko to card reader).
Pin 13PRDYOutput Communication signal (pachinko to card reader).
Pin 14DG 1Input Credit display digit 1 (units) drive signal.
Pin 15DG 2Input Credit display digit 2 (tens) drive signal.
Pin 16DG 3Input Credit display digit 3 (hundreds) drive signal.
Pin 17VL +18vInput Power input (Logic)
Pin 18VL +18vInput Power input (Logic)
Pin 19SEG FInput Credit display segment F drive signal.
Pin 20SEG GInput Credit display segment G drive signal.
Pin 21TDSOutput Ball Loan button signal.
Pin 22RESOutput Return button signal.
Pin 23BRQInput Communication signal (card reader to pachinko).
Pin 24FG Frame Ground
Pin 25AC24VOutput 24VAC power from pachinko machine to card reader unit.

Signal Descriptions.

The card reader interface connector provides 24VAC power from the pachinko machine to the card reader unit (via AC24V pins), this supply is fused at 1A so is only capable of supplying a small amount of power, and most card reader units include their own power supplies. A connection to the protective 'Frame Ground' is also provided via the FG pin.

All of the signal connections on the connector are electrically isolated from the main pachinko circuits. To operate the opto-isolator circuits a power connection must be supplied back from the card reader unit (+18v to VL and 0v to LG). This voltage is required to be present to allow the pachinko's shooter handle to be enabled.

The SEG A-G and DG1-3 signals are connected to the 3 digit 7 segment common anode display. These display signals are completely isolated from the rest of the electronics in a pachinko machine. Current limiting resistors are present in the connections to this display and the display can be driven by strobing the DG1-3 signals with a +5v logic signal, and the SEG A-G signals are grounded to light the appropriate segments.

The TDS and RES signals are connected directly to the Ball Loan and Return buttons respectively. These signals are connected to Logic Ground (LG) when the appropriate button is pressed. There are no pull-up resistors present or connection to any other circuits in the pachinko machine.

The TDLO signal is connected to the ball loan available LED. This signal should be taken low via a 1k ohm current limiting resistor to light the ball loan available LED. This LED is powered from the VL +18v supply which also needs to be present for the LED to light.

The PSI pin is permanently connected to the Logic Ground (LG) in the pachinko machine so that the card reader unit can verify that a pachinko machine is connected to the card reader interface cable.

The PRDY, EXS, BRDY, BRQ signals are used for communication between the card reader unit and the pachinko machine. They are all opto-isolated at the pachinko machine end and require that the VL +18v supply is present for the isolation circuitry to operate. The BRDY and BRQ inputs should be driven by pulling the signal low via a 1k ohm current limiting resistor. The PRDY and EXS outputs are connected to Logic Ground (LG) when the signal is active.

Card Reader Bypass Dongle.

A card reader bypass dongle is usually used when no card reader unit is available to be connected, and provides the necessary signal to enable the shooter handle of the pachinko machine.

The 18v VL signal is detected by the pachinko machine by a simple opto-isolator circuit, so all a CR bypass dongle needs to do is to provide a voltage to light the LED part of this opto-isolator. There is a 24v AC supply provided on the connector, so it's a simple conversion from 24v AC to 18v DC. (However if you wished to use the rest of the signals on the card reader interface connector a more complex power supply circuit would be required.)

To perform this conversion, three steps are needed. Rectification of the AC voltage into a crude DC, smoothing of this crude DC into a steady DC signal and lowering of the voltage to the required 18v. This circuitry can be reduced to the minimum three components required. A diode to rectify the AC voltage, a capacitor to smooth the resultant DC voltage, and a resistor to lower the voltage by the required amount.

The capacitor is usually a 47uF 50v electrolytic capacitor (though these values can be higher without any problems), and is connected with the positive wire connected to pin 18 of the D-25 connector and the negative wire (denoted by the stripe on the package) connected to pin 8.

The resistor is connected to the AC24V supply at pin 1, with the other end connected to pin 17. Pin 17 may also be linked to pin 18, but this is not strictly necessary as both pins are linked inside the pachinko machine. The resistor value is usually 330 ohms, but is sometimes 270 ohms instead. The exact value is not critical, but should be kept within this range.

The diode is most often a 1N400x type diode (usually 1N4004 though any diode can be used providing the reverse-voltage and current ratings exceed 75v at 50mA). The banded end of the diode is connected to the AC24V supply at pin 25 with the other end connected to pin 9. As with the resistor connections pins 8 and 9 are sometimes linked together.

The positions of the components can be different on CR bypass dongles from different sources. The diode and resistor positions can be swapped. The important thing is that if the diode is connected to the negative side of the capacitor (pin 8 or pin 9) then the stripe end of the diode must be connected to the AC24V pin of the D-25 connector (either pin 1 or pin 25), if it is connected to the postitive side of the capacitor (pin 17 or pin 18) then the diode must be reversed so that the stripe end is connected to the capacitor.

Modification of payout control board to permanently enable shooter handle.

An alternative to fitting a CR bypass dongle is to modify the payout control board so that the shooter handle is permanently enabled. On recent machines the signal from the card reader unit (or dongle) is isolated using an opto-isolator, this makes it simple to modify the machine so that the signal coming from this opto-isolator is always active. Some older machines do not isolate the card reader interface, on these machines finding the correct method to permanently enable the shooter handle is considerably more complicated, and will not be explained here.

An opto isolator is used to electrically isolate a signal from two seperate systems. It works by using a beam of light to allow the signal to be connected without a physical electrical connection.

One half of the opto-isolator is an LED, and the other half is a photo-detector. When power is applied to light the LED, the two pins on the photo-detector side are effectively connected. So all that needs to be done is to connect the two photo-detector pins of the opto-isolator together with a small solder blob.

There are usually five opto isolators on the payout control board for the card reader interface. Four of these are for the signalling between the pachinko and the card reader unit, and the fifth is the one used for detecting the presence of a card reader unit and enabling the shooter handle.

The opto-isolators look like small versions of the integrated circuit chips found elsewhere on the circuit boards, but only have two pins on each side. They can usually be easily distinguished from other devices as they tend to be yellow or white (whereas the normal integrated circuit chips are mostly black). On some machines the opto-isolators for the card reader signalling are combined into a single 16 pin package, and the opto-isolator for detecting the presence of the card reader unit is the only one using the four pin package. Also note that some or all of the opto-isolators may be on a seperate card reader interface board (along with the D-25 connector), rather than on the payout control board itself.

To find the correct one of these opto-isolators, remove anything connected to the card reader interface connector and (with the power to the pachinko machine switched off) use a multimeter set to continuity or low-ohms range and check for a connection between the pins of the opto-isolators and the LG pins of the card reader interface connector (pin 8 or 9). Mark the opto-isolators where the meter shows an indication of continuity.

If none of the opto-isolators show a continuity reading, then repeat the test but this time to the VL pins of the card reader interface connector (pin 17 or 18)

If only one opto-isolator has indicated continuity to the LG or VL pins, then this is the opto-isolator responsible for enabling the shooter handle, and the next paragraph can be skipped.

If more than one opto-isolator has a continuity reading, then connect a CR bypass dongle to the card reader interface connector and apply power to the pachinko machine. With the multimeter set to 20v DC range (or nearest range over 20v), measure for a voltage on the two adjacent pins of the opto-isolators that gave a continuity reading. You should get a reading of approximately 2v on one of the opto-isolators, which will be the one responsible for enabling the shooter handle.

Once the correct opto-isolator has been identified, the two pins on the photo-detector side need to be linked together to permanently enable the shooter handle. These are the two pins on the opposite side of the device to the pins that measured continuity to the LG or VL pins. The pins can be linked with a carefully placed blob of solder on the reverse side of the payout control circuit board.

This modification should not affect the use of the pachinko machine with a card reader unit (or card reader emulator dongle). Some machines that have been supplied with the shooter handle permanently enabled may use a different method of modification. It is recommended that these modifications are removed if there are any problems encountered when the pachinko machine is used with a card reader unit/dongle.

Card reader emulator unit.

In early 2007 the writer of this document developed the Card Reader Emulator unit. This unit allows pachinko collectors to dispense balls using the ball loan buttons on their pachinko machines at home, in much the same way as the pre-paid card systems are used in the Japanese pachinko parlours. Most of the technical information contained in this guide was discovered during the development of this unit.

This is a small unit, slightly larger than a cased CR bypass dongle, that connects to the card reader interface connector on a modern pachinko machine. The unit contains a small microprocessor that simulates the functions of the pre-paid card readers, and communicates with the payout control system of the host pachinko machine to dispense balls under the player's control.

The unit can be connected to an external coin or token acceptor, for pay-for-play operation, or can be connected to a smartcard reader PCB so that collectors can have their own 'pre-paid card' systems for a more authentic parlour experience in their own home. Though you should note that these smartcards are different from the cards used in Japanese parlours and do not contain any security/anti-fraud features, so are definitely not recommended for commercial use!

More information about the card reader emulator system can be found at

Recently it has been discovered that a similar type of dongle was also developed in Japan in late 2007.

The MugenCR system only enables the use of the ball loan button to dispense 25 balls per press. The credit display on the pachinko is not utilised and it is simply a free-play type ball dispenser adaptor intended for use at pachinko product launches and trade shows.

MugenCR sales page (Japanese)
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