Universal sues Reuters; conditions right for Japan casino bill passage in 2013


universal-okada-reuters-japan-casinoJapanese gaming firm Universal Entertainment has followed through on its threats to file a civil suit against news agency Reuters for what Universal called “biased and unfair reporting.” The pachinko/casino company headed by Kazuo Okada was the subject of two Reuters broadsides last month, each detailing alleged payoffs from Universal to an associate of the former head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). Universal’s suit was filed on Tuesday in Tokyo against Thomson Reuters and three of its journalists; Kevin Krolicki, Ian Geoghegan and Nobuhiro Kubo. Universal is seeking damages of ¥200m (US $2.43m), plus the deletion and discontinuance of distribution of the pertinent articles as well as a formal apology advertisement. Reuters spokesperson Barb Burg said the company hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit, but insisted “we stand by our reporting.”

It’s not known if Universal was the original manufacturer of the 29 pachinko-slot (pachisuro) machines recently seized during a police raid on an illegal slot parlor in Osaka. Sankei Shimbun reported that the parlor, dubbed New York, was located in a high-end apartment building and had been in operation since 2010, roughly how long the Body Talk illegal roulette casino had been operating before Osaka police shut it down last month.

Of course, Japanese authorities would have a lot less illegal gaming joints to shut down if the country’s politicians would get a move on and pass the long-delayed integrated resort (IR) casino legislation. Progress on passing the casino bill slowed this summer, then stopped entirely last month with the dissolution of the House of Representatives in preparation for elections on Dec. 16. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is currently polling in third place behind the favored Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the new Japan Restoration Party (JRP). Once the results are in, the cross-party 154-member Committee of Lawmakers for the Promotion of International Tourism aka ‘IR Giren’ will need to be reconfigured to fit the makeup of the new parliament, which will commence its new session in February.

Takayuki Aoki, press secretary to LDP member (and casino booster) Takeshi Iwaya, suggested that with the LDP likely to emerge as the election’s big winners, having Iwaya chair the IR Giren would mean “the chances of the casino legislation passing will be higher.” Sakihito Ozawa, another of the IR Giren’s top casino legislation backers, left the DPJ this year to join the new JRP, which has yet to establish a concrete position on casinos. But Ozawa told GamblingCompliance “the conditions are getting right” for the stalled casino bill and put the odds of its passage in the next parliamentary session at more than 70%. If passed next year, a more detailed bill would follow in 2014, after which casino companies would be invited to submit proposals. But will all the negative press surrounding Universal Entertainment affect the hometown boys’ chances of having their proposal accepted?