Caesars Charm Offensive in Japan Borders on Political Bribery, Claims Local Media

Posted on: July 17, 2018, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: July 17, 2018, 12:13h.

Caesars Entertainment has been forced to defend its lobbying efforts in Japan after the country’s biggest weekly news magazine, Shukan Bunshun (SB), accused it of engaging in behavior that could be viewed as illegal political bribery.

Caesars Entertainment exec Jan Jones Blackhurst
Caesars exec Jan Jones Blackhurst said she believed her company’s purchase of tickets to political fundraisers in Japan did not violate any law. Japan prohibits political donations by foreign companies. (Image: Las Vegas Sun)

Shukan Bunshun revealed that for several years Caesars has been buying tickets to social gatherings, commonly organized by Japanese lawmakers for the purposes of political fundraising.

Between 2014 and 2016, 15 Japanese politicians received funding from Las Vegas-based casino giant through the purchase of tickets, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, Minister of Internal Affairs Seiko Noda, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Serious Competition

Japan is on the verge of passing its Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill, legislation that will lay the foundations of a casino market that has the potential to be the second-biggest in the world.

Caesars wants in, as does virtually every major casino company on earth. But with just three licenses initially available, competition will be fierce, and the industry is on a serious charm offensive.

It’s clear SB finds Caesars’ behavior anything but charming, but has it acted illegally? Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice-president of public policy and corporate responsibility at Caesars believes it has not.

“The recent Bunshun article, as it relates to Caesars Entertainment, focuses on the long-standing and legal practice in Japan of buying tickets to political fundraising events,” she said. “We believe that the purchases of such tickets by our consultant over many years were made in accordance with the laws of Japan and other jurisdictions, as well as in accordance with our own robust compliance policies and procedures.”

Spirit of the Law

Japan’s Political Funds Control Law prohibits political donations by foreign citizens or companies, but it is less clear on the purchase of tickets to fundraisers.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nishimura told a Diet hearing last week that the practice did not violate any law, but, having benefited from it, he could hardly say otherwise.

Kobe Gakuin University Professor of Law Hiroshi Kamiwaki told SB that he believes the spirit of the Political Funds Control Law is that purchasing party tickets and political donations are essentially the same thing. At the very least, it raises moral questions, he added.

While casinos have the backing of Japan’s coalition government, they are deeply unpopular among opposition lawmakers and there is increasing concern about a perceived foreign influence on the legislative process.

“US casino operators will set up subsidiaries and operate them, and losses by Japanese gamblers will be channeled to the US,” Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told the Japan Times recently. “This selling off of the country is akin to treason.”