“I had nothing else to do, so I went two to three times per week,” admitted one customer who had been arrested.

It seems the coronavirus lockdown has some people resorting to illegal activities to get their entertainment and their income. On May 16, 23 people were arrested in the Kitatoyama neighborhood of Komaki City in Aichi Prefecture for operating and wagering in an illegal gambling facility.

Takashi Urano, 45, is the primary accused in the case, and he and 11 other people associated with the “casino” were arrested on the charge of “gaining profit by opening a gambling place.” 12 other men and women who had visited the “casino” and participated in the gambling were also arrested on the 16th and charged with illegal gambling. Most of the customers admitted to the crime, with one saying, “I’ve been furloughed from my job because of coronavirus, so I have nothing to do. I’ve been going two to three times per week.”

Urano is suspected of opening up the illegal gambling den in the Nishiki neighborhood of Naka Ward in Nagoya (Aichi’s capital city) in April, which he continued to operate even after the government called for businesses to close. Officials believed he charged participants a fee to buy in, calling it a “commission fee”, which would make him guilty of illegally operating a gambling facility at a profit.

On the day of the arrests, police also did a search of the premises wearing gloves and masks, finding about 7,000,000 yen (more than US$65,000) as well as four baccarat tables.

Since you can find pachinko parlors anywhere in the country, you might be surprised to know that Japan is extremely strict on gambling. For more than three decades, there was not a single legal casino in the country, and the only gambling options available were pachinko–which is forbidden to pay out winnings in cash–, horse racing, and the lottery. However, in 2016, the debate about whether to legalize casinos gained renewed vigor, with one of the key arguments for it being that the income from such enterprises could be beneficial for the Japanese economy.

Though much of the population didn’t seem in favor of the idea, the government finally legalized casinos in 2018, though they will be heavily regulated. Casinos must now be licensed and are restricted to “integrated resorts”, which means they have to be part of a hotel, conference hall, or shopping center and maintain less than three percent of the floor space. They must also pay 30 percent of their profits to local governments in the form of a “gaming tax.”

Though the law is in effect now, no casinos have yet been built, so this little operation is very much illegal. Police also suspect that this particular gambling den was meant to fund the local yakuza, which, if proven, would add additional, more serious charges on the suspects involved.

Source: Nikkei News, Nikkei Asian Review
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

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