The Japanese government wants to build three flashy casinos

Feb 06, 2020

AS HE PACES the cramped cell in Tokyo where he is being held on suspicion of corruption, Akimoto Tsukasa may be wondering where it all went wrong. In 2017, while serving as the minister in charge of the government’s scheme to build Japan’s first casinos, he flew by private jet to China on a trip paid for by the boss of an online casino firm. He returned with a bag of goodies, including a pair of expensive shoes. Later, prosecutors claim, he pocketed over ¥3m ($27,000) from the same firm. He is said subsequently to have sounded out the transport ministry about building an airport for private jets in a ski resort on Hokkaido, a big northern island, to provide easier access for high-rollers. This week prosecutors filed a second charge of bribe-taking against him. What is more, since Mr Akimoto’s arrest on December 25th, the allegations have spooled out to ensnare five other politicians, all but one from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Japan’s prime minister, Abe Shinzo, may also be asking himself how things came to this. In 2018 he pushed through parliament a measure allowing the construction of three “integrated resorts”: Las Vegas-style destinations for family holidays, with all sorts of wholesome attractions as well as slot machines. Before then, casinos were illegal in Japan, although betting on horse, boat and bicycle races is...

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