Japanese Lawmaker Arrested Again For Casino Bribes

Plans to introduce gambling to Japan through Integrated Resorts (IR) have faced a variety of obstacles, including the devastating blow from the coronavirus pandemic. However, as detrimental as this has been to the history of the casino, the humiliation caused by a official to the nation was similarly troublesome, allowing critics the right to grin because they would carry “told you so” to the gambling of corruption.

Previously, Tsukasa Akimoto, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, was brought up on charges of taking bribes from a Chinese gaming company trying to get into the action. He has now once again been charged-his third detention since last December. He has clearly not learned his lesson from upholding the statute, and faces charges of violating Japan’s Organized Crimes Punishment Act.

When Japan’s IR initiative began to develop, Akimoto, a former junior member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was found to have accepted bribes from 500.com in exchange for helping the company gain a leg up on the competition. He had been involved directly with the project, placing him in a great position to be able to peddle its power.

According to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, it now appears that he has tried to pay out individuals in exchange for giving false testimony in the case. One of his associates, Akihito Awaji, is also confirmed to have attempted to pay for testimony along with Akimoto, and was arrested earlier this month.

All the money Akimoto gained since being elected a national lawmaker in 2004, along with the $34,000 he is said to have obtained from 500.com, has evidently not been enough to keep him afloat. At the end of last month, he held a fundraiser in an effort to collect money and try and rejoin the LDP. It is not known how much he may have earned.

Japan’s IR scene faces more criticism than ever, fuelled by COVID-19 and one man’s unethical activities. One can be said to weigh more heavily than the other, as both are doing considerable harm to the government and the plans for the IR. In particular, the coronavirus has forced the government to re-focus its attention on stabilizing the country, which has forced delays in developing the IR Basic Policy that the industry will use to set its requirements. This, in turn, has also led to local governments that hoped to get involved in delaying their plans.

Osaka, Yokohama and Nagasaki are among the top three hosting options for an IR. They were all forced to push back on their success in developing local IR plans and another candidate, Nagasaki, is beginning to feel pressure to step away. The Nagasaki Shimbun media outlet notes that a local group, the Nagasaki Medical Practitioners Association, has sent Governor Hodo Nakamura a letter requesting that all IR-related matters be put on hold. For now, it even wants the country to forget the idea, saying,  “An IR concept is unnecessary and non-urgent, as is evidenced by Las Vegas Sands dropping out of the race. Nagasaki prefecture and Japan as a nation should withdraw its IR bid and work instead to improve the welfare of its citizens.”