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Crackdowns can’t stop Tokyo’s underground gambling

Shukan Jitsuwa Jan. 3
Shukan Jitsuwa Jan. 3
In 2003, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara appointed Yutaka Takehana as vice-governor of public safety. Soon after, Takehana began a crackdown on vice: 100 non-licensed businesses, such as ime kura (image clubs), deri heru (delivery health) and “pink” salons, were closed in the Kabukicho red-light district of the capital.

Illegal gambling dens also came under scrutiny. Yet, as reports weekly tabloid Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan. 3), underground parlors survive, battling law enforcement and the ongoing recession.

For the well heeled, baccarat is the game of choice — topping slot machines and betting on baseball — as its “do-or-die” thrills cannot be matched. “In pachinko and horse racing, there is some degree of control for the player,” says a gambling writer. “For baccarat, it is up to the dice and probability. Even if a player loses several million yen in one night, the fascination with gambling is what compels the player back through into the dark world again.”

On the other hand, operators of underground clubs can make fast cash quite easily. “A small number of staff is needed so labor costs are low,” says a writer specializing in adult entertainment, “and even without investments in technology and a substantial financial outlay, it is not unusual for cash to come rolling in through the door each night.”

The businesses are made to blend in with local surroundings so as to appear legal. Last September, Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested the 55-year-old manager of Internet Nevada, located in Kabukicho, and two employees for the illegal operation of a gambling venue for the purpose of financial gain. The club was posing as an Internet cafe.

Internet Nevada offered baccarat and poker on 12 computers linked to an overseas gambling site. Since opening in January of 2012, police authorities estimate that the venue generated 70 million yen in revenue.

Internet casinos started appearing five or six years ago. Tables and personal computers are all the equipment that is necessary. There are a lot of cases where operators have purchased the “rights” to open such a shop from organized crime gangs for between five million and 10 million yen.

Shukan Jitsuwa says that higher end clubs entrust their operations to financial backers who pull the necessary strings with law enforcement to ensure that the parlors stay in business.

These underground clubs cater to gamblers with high incomes — all of whom require an introduction. Players can enjoy an environment similar to an overseas casino, with dealers outfitted in snappy uniforms and beautiful women in attendance.

“These guys are big-hitting corporate managers,” says an underground gambling writer. “Referrals might come in through high-end fuzoku (commercial sex) shops or hostess clubs.”

As the number of customers increases so does the risk in being busted, says the source, so, for operators, it is vital to have multiple routes for introductions to customers willing to spend substantial amounts.

There are more than 40 underground baccarat clubs scattered throughout the Ueno, Ginza, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Kabukicho districts of Tokyo. An exact number is unknown due to the fact that one a club is busted it will oftentimes move to another location.

After Ishihara’s eradication program, the number of underground baccarat parlors dipped. “Of those clubs that got shut down,” says the aforementioned adult-entertainment writer, “some of the managers and customers were at a standstill, and many turned to Internet casinos and underground slot parlors.” (A.T.)

Source: “Fukeiki demo gyanburaa ha shinuzu! Yami no ugomeku iho kajino no ima,” Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan. 3, pages 68-69)