Bribery scandal shakes local governments planning bids for casino resorts

14-Jan-2020 Intellasia | JapanNews | 12:59 AM Print This Post

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is soon expected to again arrest House of Representatives lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, on suspicion of receiving bribes from a Chinese company that was planning to operate a casino resort in Japan. Some local governments considering to host casino-featuring integrated resorts (IR) are reeling over the scandal as they struggle to prevent the worsening impression of casino resorts amid concerns about gambling addiction and public security.

Passing on applying

“After a comprehensive evaluation, we decided against bidding to host an IR,” said Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai at a regularly scheduled press conference on January 7. Kumagai said that he made the decision not to apply for certification to host casino resorts at the end of last year. The corruption scandal “had no affect whatsoever on the decision,” he said.

The mayor cited the need to respond to a series of typhoons last autumn as one reason why the city dropped from the race to host a casino resort.

Three days after his announcement, however, it was revealed that in January last year, Kumagai and a person related to the Chinese company allegedly involved in the bribery case had a meeting at the city office.

Several city assembly members said Kumagai likely was planning to avoid hurting himself politically as he is seen as an IR advocate.

In November, Hokkaido decided not to file an application to host casino resorts because the local government said a lengthy amount of time would be required to assess the environmental impact on forests for the potential location of a casino resort. A veteran prefectural assembly member said with a relief, “It was good that the prefectural government announced it early [before Akimoto was arrested].”

According to a survey conducted by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in September, nine local governments in eight regions said they are planning to or are considering applying for certification to host a casino resort. This has since dropped to seven in six regions after Chiba and Hokkaido decided not to apply.

Yokohama, Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City, and the prefectures of Wakayama and Nagasaki have already expressed their intention to host the casino resorts, while Tokyo and Nagoya have yet to clarify their positions.

Opposition to IRs

The governments of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City began soliciting an operator for its proposed IR business ahead of other local governments on December 24. The bribery scandal was brought to light the following day, however.

“There is nothing wrong with IR projects,” Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said, stressing the local governments’ plan to choose an operator around June as scheduled.

But a senior prefectural government official expressed concern, saying, “If the opposition parties intensify questioning over the scandal at the Diet, the central government may not be able to carry out its procedures on IR projects as planned and our project may be delayed.”

The scandal might also lead to more active anti-casino campaigns.

Opposition is strongly rooted in the Yokohama harbor transportation association based at Yamashita Pier, which is a potential location for a casino resort in Yokohama.

Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said at a press conference on December 8, “Some people say that it is better to stop [promoting the bid to host a casino resort] because the country is in this situation, but I would like to explain thoroughly to the citizens what our IR project is like.”

A city assembly member, however, said, “There is no doubt that the opposition will gain momentum.”Speech


Category: Japan

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