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Japanese badminton stars linked to yakuza-backed casino

Kento Momota (L) and Kenichi Tago
Kento Momota (L) and Kenichi Tago

TOKYO (TR) – The Olympic future of a Japanese badminton star is in serious jeopardy following revelations that he and another player visited an illegal casino supported by organized crime, reports NHK (April 7).

Team Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East said on Thursday that members Kento Momota, 21, and Kenichi Tago, 26, have admitted to patronizing a casino in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward that provided baccarat wagering in violation of the law.

Momota, who is ranked fourth in the world, had already claimed a spot on Japan’s team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Tago was eliminated in the first round of the Olympics in London four years ago.

The illegal casino in question was busted by Tokyo Metropolitan Police in April of last year. The following month, police took Mitsuo Seki, a 60-year-old boss in the Sumiyoshi-kai organized crime group, into custody for allegedly recommending customers to the facility.

The casino opened the previous November. Between February and April, the operation collected 100 million yen in revenue. Seki is believed to have provided an introduction to approximately 10 percent of the 380 people included on a customer list seized by police.

The executive director of the Nippon Badminton Association, Kinji Zeniya, said that it is unlikely that Momota will participate in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro if the allegations are confirmed. “Considering his future prospects, it is indeed unfortunate, but the social responsibility is greater,” he said, according to TBS News (April 7).

On Thursday, both athletes arrived at Narita International Airport after competing in a tournament in Malaysia.