The plans to bring gambling to Japan through integrated resorts (IR) has faced a number of obstacles, including the crushing blow delivered by the coronavirus pandemic. As devastating as this has been to the casino timeline, though, the embarrassment caused to the country by a politician has been equally problematic, giving opponents the ability to smirk as they utter “told you so” regarding the corruption gambling would bring. Tsukasa Akimoto, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, has previously been brought up on charges of accepting bribes from a Chinese gaming operator looking to get in on the action. He has now been arrested once again – his third arrest since last December. He apparently hasn’t learned his lesson about following the law, and is facing charges of violating Japan’s Act for Punishment of Organized Crimes.
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 get a leg up on the competition as Japan’s IR project started to develop. He had been directly involved with the project, putting him in a great position to be able to peddle his influence. It now appears, according to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, that he has tried to pay off individuals in exchange for providing false testimony in the case. Along with Akimoto, Akihito Awaji, one of his supporters, is also reported to have tried to pay for testimony, and was arrested earlier this month.
Apparently, all the money Akimoto earned since being elected a national politician in 2004, coupled with the $34,000 he is said to have received from 500.com, hasn’t been enough to keep him solvent. He held a fundraiser at the end of last month in an effort to gather money and try to rejoin the LDP. It isn’t clear how much he may have been able to collect.
The IR scene in Japan is facing more opposition than ever before, fueled by COVID-19 and the unethical activities of one man. Neither can be said to weigh heavier than the other, as they both are causing considerable damage to the government and the IR plans. The coronavirus, in particular, has forced the government to refocus its attention on stabilizing the country, which has forced delays in developing the IR Basic Policy that will be used by the industry to establish its specifications. This, in turn, has led to local governments that had hoped to get involved to delay their plans, as well.
Osaka, Yokohama and Nagasaki are among the top three choices for hosting an IR. They have all been forced to push back their progress on developing local IR plans, and another contender, Nagasaki, is starting to feel pressure to step away. The Nagasaki Shimbun media outlet reports that a local group, the Nagasaki Medical Practitioners Association, has sent a letter to Governor Hodo Nakamura, requesting that everything related to the IR be put on hold. It even wants the country to forget about the idea for now, asserting, “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.”