The casino bribery scandal in Japan is still gathering momentum, with 1 arrested and 5 more under strong suspicion of having collected funds from the Chinese company 500.com to grease the skids of its bid, but the ruling coalition seems unimpressed, pushing forward with its plan to legalize at least three casino integrated resorts. The five members of the commission met behind closed doors on 10th to discuss the matters.
The Government Casino Regulatory Commission gathered for the first time and the timing of their meeting was not the most appropriate one, to say the least, bearing in mind that the arrest of Tsukasa Akimoto was followed by Mikio Shimoji – one of other five suspects – acknowledging that he had received money, giving weight to the whole accusations that also include 4 members of the LDP – Takeshi Iwaya, Masahisa Miyazaki, Hiroyuki Nakamura, and Toshimitsu Funahashi.
The commission, which is an independent authority tasked to issue licenses for running casinos in Japan, but also make these void in cases of found irregularities, headed by Michio Kitamura, former chief of the Fukuoka High Public Prosecutor’s Office, discussed during their first meeting behind closed doors rules regulating its operations and rebuilding public trust, reiterating their resolve to deal with the issues surrounding the casino industry in general, such as gambling addiction and the higher potential for a rise in crime.
“The members of the commission and staff of its secretariat will unite and work with a sense of urgency to build trust with the public over casino business,” Kitamura said in a press conference.
A Corruption Scandal That Cannot Be Waved Away
To push forward with the plans pretending that the scandal does not even exist could antagonize the public further and bring more indignation, especially when five of the six suspects in the bribery case come from the biggest LDP party. Even the opposition plans to scrap the 2016 integrated resort promotion law during the regular Diet meeting scheduled for January 20 do not seem to be of great concern, obviously.
What would be the political implications of this casino bribery scandal is hard to predict, as some think that it will force Abe to scrap the snap elections idea after the Tokyo Olympics waiting for the negative publicity to subside, while others take a totally diametrical stance claiming that he will have to hold the elections in the near future to silence the critics and show his position is strong.
Whatever he chooses to do will be with the eye on the ultimate prize, as he is approaching the end of his presidency of the LDP and only a constitutional amendment for which he needs a certain number of the votes will let him keep the Prime Minister position.