An underground poker room in Japan was raided by police after they received tipoffs that the club has connections to the country’s largest organized crime syndicate, the Yakuza.
The illegal poker club, located in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, was busted on April 24, resulting in the arrest of at least seven individuals. Two of them, both female and aged 19 and 20, served as dealers.
The club’s manager, a 43-year-old Korean man, was also arrested during the raid, alongside four poker players. Police also seized two poker tables, playing cards, and chips from an apartment building not far from the North Exit of JR Kinshichō Station (pictured).
Authorities believe that the club had links to organized crime. The room allegedly amassed over $111,000 in profit since July 2020, and a portion of that amount was purportedly used to help fund the Yakuza. The club’s manager eventually admitted to operating an illegal gambling club.
Gambling Legalization in Japan Continues to Face Challenges
Most forms of gambling, including casino and poker, are generally prohibited in Japan, under chapter 23 of the country’s Penal Code. Casinos have been lobbying the government to allow them to operate, and the campaign received a significant boost in 2018 when the Integrated Resort Development Act was enacted under the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The legislation would pave the way for the legalization of gambling resorts in selected regions, and was initially aimed at boosting Japan’s tourism ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But the implementation process has since encountered some major roadblocks.
In January 2020, Tsukasa Akimoto, previously in charge of the country’s casino resorts initiative, was re-arrested for allegedly accepting bribes from a Chinese gaming company. Akimoto, who formerly served as Japan’s Vice Minister for Tourism, was originally held in custody in December 2019 but following the discovery of new evidence of bribery, prosecutors issued a fresh arrest warrant a month later.
Akimoto’s arrest was followed by a police raid on an illegal gambling club in Tokyo, during which 21 poker players were taken into custody. Much worse, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was eventually postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to another delay in the implementation of the new gambling law.
The latest raid in Tokyo further hampers the process, especially as the illegal poker club in question is accused of having links to the Yakuza which has had massive influence in Japan ever since. Incidents like this won’t help the country in its aim to become one of the biggest regulated gambling markets in the world.