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Bribery Could Spoil $20 Billion Casino Plan in Japan 

The ruling government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, plans to set up Las Vegas-style casino resorts worth $20 billion as a part of tourism promotional activity in Japan. However, the existing scandal against the lawmaker of the ruling party, Tsukasa Akimoto who is involved in the bribery of an ‘undisclosed’ Tokyo-based firm could ruin the government’s plan.

Setting up Casinos to Attract Foreign Tourists

Tourism is a major revenue generator industry of Japan and promoting casinos in the country is one of the prioritized aims for the Abe Administration to attract foreign tourists. With the rapid decline of the economy and population in the country, the Abe Government plans to strengthen its economy by promoting tourism, especially after the Olympics, which is scheduled to be held in Japan in 2020. According to some analysts, the casino plans could be worth about $20 billion, and the establishment of these could attract many of Asia’s wealthy gamblers.

Meanwhile, the government’s plan for the implementation of the policies to legalize casinos in Japan received severe criticism from the public, as it encourages gambling addiction among the citizens. Analysts claimed that Akimoto’s arrest has brought a negative impact to Abe Government which is still under attack from the opposition party alleging the ruling party for using party funds for such gambling games.

Investigation against Akimoto

Today, on December 26, 2019, Japanese authorities conducted raids in various places where pachinko (a Japanese indigenous gambling game) operated, as a part of the investigation against a bribery case against Japanese Members of Parliament (MP), Akimoto. The MP had been arrested for accepting bribes from a gambling operating firm.

According to NHK media, “The Tokyo-based firm was under investigation for possible ties to ruling party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, who was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of accepting bribes when he oversaw the government’s policy on casino development.” Without disclosing the name of the firm NHK reported, “Its accounts were being scrutinized for any transactions involving Akimoto, who in the past served as a consultant for a firm that had dealings with the pachinko operator.”

Following Akimoto’s arrest, a media reported, “Prosecutors have been expanding their investigation into whether he accepted cash and gifts from 500.com, an online gambling operator based in China which is interested in developing a casino in Japan.” The prosecutors said, “Akimoto is accused of accepting 3 million yen cash ($27,500) and a family holiday valued at $6,500 from three suspects despite knowing their company wanted help with a casino. The three were also arrested.”

Many analysts and media shared their view that Akimoto’s involvement in accepting illicit money from gambling operators could affect the Abe Government’s plan of opening casinos in the country. As a response to media, a top government spokesman insisted, “Akimoto’s arrest would not affect or delay government plans to develop three casino resorts, the investigation will likely raise questions about the bidding process.”

Media reported that the government authorities raided the office of a former member of parliament for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Shigeaki Katsunuma, and current LDP lawmaker Takaki Shirasuka in connection with the bribery case.

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