Illegal Tokyo Casino Hired Ex-Pro Fighter as Security Guard, Police Claim

Posted on: November 21, 2020, 06:16h. 

Last updated on: November 21, 2020, 05:57h.

An alleged illegal gaming operation in Japan employed a former pro fighter to act as a bodyguard while baccarat gambling apparently was taking place inside, authorities revealed this week.

The path to more legal wagering continues in Japan
The Roppongi district is a popular nighttime destination in Tokyo. It was also the location of an alleged illegal casino that police closed down in July. (Image: Wikipedia)

Tokyo police have arrested one-time fighter Koni Okuno. But he claims he was unaware of any gaming going on in the joint.

Starting in January 2019, he worked at the venue. He stopped in July when it was closed down.

Police allege Okuno was paid 11 million yen (about US$105,900) for his bodyguard services. In Japanese, he was known as a yojimbo.

Okuno denies ever getting paid. He also claimed he never knew about the illegal gambling.

I was asked to provide security,” Okuno told local police, the Tokyo Reporter, an English language publication covering Japan, reported. “I didn’t know there was gambling going on and I didn’t receive any money.”

The Tokyo Reporter added that Okuno was apprehended by Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Earlier this year, police arrested a dozen suspects in connection with their investigation of the operation.

The casino was open during the coronavirus pandemic, the news report said. It only allowed members to gamble on baccarat, the report adds.

While it was open, the venue earned about 480 million yen. That works out to about to about US$4.6M.

The venue was closed in July after a police raid. Two baccarat tables, chips, and playing cards were seized back then by local police. The manager and nine other people were apprehended by authorities.

Later arrests took place in September. Among those charged was Chizuka Yamamoto, a 70-year-old reputed senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi. He was allegedly involved in casino operations, said Kyodo News, a Japanese news organization.

Yamamoto is allegedly affiliated with the Takumi-gumi organized crime group, a subgroup of the Yamaguchi-gumi. Yamaguchi-gumi is reputed to be Japan’s largest yakuza (organized crime) organization.

Details on Crime Organization

The Takumi-gumi was founded by Masaru Takumi, a powerful Japanese crime figure, and was the second-highest ranking leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi until his assassination in 1997, explained in a September news report. The Yamaguchi-gumi is claimed to be one of the largest criminal organizations in the world, with more than 20,000 members.

It’s also among the wealthiest, amassing billions of dollars a year from extortion, gambling, the sex industry, drug dealing, arms trafficking, stock market manipulation, and construction kickback schemes, law enforcement has alleged.

Upon his arrest following the casino raid, Yamamoto denied the allegations of his involvement in the casino.

The alleged illegal casino was located in the Roppongi district. The neighborhood is known for its nightclubs, bars, strip clubs, and restaurants.

Japan Awaits Licenses for Legal Integrated Resorts

Meanwhile, Japan continues on its path to open three licensed integrated resorts. As of last month, Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama, and Nagasaki were competing to land one of the licenses for legal gambling.

In October, the application process — which was supposed to run between Jan. 4, 2021 and July 30, 2021 — was delayed until a final date of April 28, 2022. The new start date for applications is unclear.