Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for a ruling party lawmaker on suspicion of receiving cash from a Chinese company seeking to invest in the casino industry, Kyodo News reported.
The warrant was issued for Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politician Tsukasa Akimoto, who had served as a vice-minister in charge of promoting the establishment of casinos in the country, according to the Wednesday report (Dec 25), which cited unnamed sources.
The Chinese company, which runs online casinos and is headquartered in the southern city of Shenzhen, is suspected of smuggling several million yen in cash into Japan without declaring it to customs, Kyodo said, without naming the firm.
Mr Akimoto’s office and Tokyo prosecutors both declined to comment on the report. Mr Akimoto has denied any wrongdoing, public broadcaster NHK has said.
The report deals a blow to Japan’s already unpopular plans to open the country to gaming. The nation legalised casino gambling in 2016 to great excitement in the industry, where many have long tried to get a foot in the door in a potential US$20 billion (S$27.10) gaming market.
Companies including MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp have spent heavily to get access to a gaming market that could become Asia’s second-largest after Macau.
Three years later, some of that enthusiasm is wearing off. A number of casino executives, who declined to speak publicly because of the sensitive nature of the casino approval process, told Bloomberg News that the procedure in Japan has been more difficult compared with other markets that have built gaming industries. At least one company, Caesars Entertainment Corp, has pulled out.
Japan’s law allows for the establishment of three casino resorts, and Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo are among the local governments seeking to attract a casino or considering doing so, according to the country’s tourism authority.
Opinion polls show that the public opposes the idea.