Japanese MP Arrested for Accepting Kickbacks for Integrated Resort Lobbying

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A Japanese Member of Parliament (MP) was arrested on Wednesday, December 25, for allegedly accepting a $34,000 kickback to assist a company to secure rights over the first integrated resort project in the country.

Member of Government Arrested for Allegedly Accepting Bribe for IR

A Japanese MP was arrested on Wednesday, December 25, on suspicion of taking bribes from casino representatives. This development comes ahead of an integrated resort project, a first for the country and deemed one of the best gambling investments worldwide. Authorities are now taking a closer look at alleged ties between lawmakers and businesses representing casinos.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a member of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, was arrested for allegedly accepting $34,000 as a gift (Al Jazeera reported the amount as $27,500). Akimoto has denied wrongdoing while investigators are still preparing to bring official charges.

While the integrated resort progress has continued as normal, and the government plans to introduce an official framework in 2021, there have been concerns about associations between government officials and businesses.

In 2018, Caesars has been accused of sponsoring politicians to gain favor in being elected one of the first companies to build an integrated resort in Japan. The company denied the accusations. Meanwhile, investigators established that Akimoto has indirectly negotiated with a company through three individuals who remained unnamed.

Company Bribing Akimoto Bids for Hokkaido

The company that established contact with Akimoto is bidding for Hokkaido, one of the main areas where an integrated resort may yet to be seen.

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, the company in question was 500.com, a Chinese sportsbook, the New York Times reported. Before investigators arrested him, Akimoto went on Twitter to deny wrongdoing again. He also resigned from the party on Wednesday.

The name of Takaki Shirasuka has also emerged one of the potential wrongdoers. Member of the same party, Shirasuka is the second government representative to allegedly participate in the conflict. Hokkaido is meanwhile concerned about the environmental impact the integrated resort could inflict.

At the same time, Osaka and Yokohama have been the other potential places to host the first of the upcoming super projects. A slew of international brands has been lining up to participate in the project.

In December, the National Diet approved a list of nominees who will take over an official commission. The body will regulate the introduction of integrated resorts in the country. Interest from international brands has also been rising. Wynn Resorts set up an office in Japan to help the brand lobby for exclusive rights over the first integrated resort.

Meanwhile, the support for the integrated resort isn’t high. According to Jiji news, some 57.9% of the population opposes the measure spearheaded by Abe with only 26.6% looking favourably on casinos.

Kazuhiro Haraguchi, speaker for the Democratic Party for the People opposition party, said that the recent arrest undermined the credibility of the government with regards to its integrated resort policy.

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