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Illegal Tokyo casinos popular with baseball stars

Shukan Taishu Dec. 12
Shukan Taishu Dec. 12
In November, Japanese prosecutors arrested Mototaka Ikawa, 47, the former chairman of Daio Paper, after he admitted to a breach of trust in connection to 10.6 billion yen borrowed largely for gambling purposes.

“In the beginning, he used to go to gambling joints in Japan,” a reporter for a national paper tells weekly tabloid Shukan Taishu (Dec. 12). “But he eventually went overseas, where he was able to bet higher. He then became addicted.”

The tabloid says that Ikawa started in the murky underworld of illegal Japanese casinos — establishments that big-name celebrities and sports stars also frequent.

(It should be noted that, aside from motorcycle, horse, boat, and bicycle racing, gambling is prohibited in Japan. Pachinko is not classified as gambling.)

A former casino dealer, now retired, says that Baccarat is the most common game in these parlors, which are known to spring up in red-light districts. “With its simple rules, many will fall for it,” the source says.

The former casino employee is not surprised to see what has happened with Ikawa as many customers rack up large losses. The key for the casino, the former dealer says, is to create a cycle within the clientele whereby breaks are given to losing gamblers if they invite associates to play.

“A few years ago, there was a professional baseball player who was a regular,” the former dealer says, adding that the player in question was drafted in the ’80s and remains a big name today. “While he was not comparable to Ikawa, as far as level, everyone knew he was putting a lot on the line.”

But he racked up big losses. To offset the amount, the casino asked him to extend an invitation to a younger teammate, known as a solid contact hitter, to join.

“The scheme is well designed so that when a person faces a large loss they are forced to supply a referral for another person of equal income level,” the former dealer explains.

Ken Kitashiba, a crime analyst, explains that casino money is a source of funds for organized crime groups. “In the beginning, underground casinos were 10-yen poker games found in the backs of cafes,” the analyst says.

In the early ’90s, extravagantly designed establishments started to take hold in the Shinjuku and Roppongi entertainment areas of Tokyo.

This trend escalated, with bets of ten million yen not being unusual. “Rich and famous people are easy targets for these illegal casinos,” the former dealer says. “Casinos conduct background checks for their clients, including relationships with women, so that there is no escape.”

Perhaps such a scheme was behind the downfall of Ikawa?

“People like Ikawa hold a high status in society,” explains the former underground casino employee. “Just like baseball players, they are ideal targets.” (A.T.)

Source: “Puro yakyu senshu ga hamatta ura kajino joshu tobaku dakikomu teguchi,” Shukan Taishu (Dec. 12, pages 188-189)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.