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Japan's Casino Regulatory Commission holds its first meeting amid bribery scandal

JIJI

The government’s Casino Regulatory Commission held its first meeting Friday against the backdrop of a high-profile bribery scandal related to so-called integrated resorts featuring casinos.

At the closed-door meeting, the five members of the commission, including its head, Michio Kitamura, former chief of the Fukuoka High Public Prosecutor’s Office, discussed rules regulating its operations. It will also work on drawing up regulations on resort operators.

“The members of the commission and staff of its secretariat will unite and work with a sense of urgency to build trust with the public over casino business,” Kitamura said at a news conference after the meeting. He also stressed the commission’s resolve to deal appropriately with casino-related concerns among the public, such as gambling addiction and a potential rise in crime.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office’s special investigation squad is investigating the scandal in which Tsukasa Akimoto, a lawmaker and former Cabinet Office state minister for the government’s project to launch casino resorts, has been arrested for allegedly accepting bribes from a Chinese company that was planning to open a resort in Japan.

While the government plans to move forward with the casino initiative, opposition parties are expected to submit a bill to scrap a related law to the regular session of the Diet that starts on Jan. 20.

“I plan to supervise our staff at the secretariat so that the commission’s fairness and neutrality will not be questioned,” Kitamura said.

The commission, affiliated with the Cabinet Office, was established last Tuesday.

Like the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the commission has independent authority, being able to issue licenses necessary to run casinos in Japan and cancel the licenses if irregularities are found.

The secretariat currently has 95 workers, and the number will be increased by 25 in fiscal 2020, which starts April 1. The envisaged casino regulations, including mandatory measures to prevent gambling addiction, will likely be drawn up by spring 2021.

The government plans to allow up to three casino resorts to be opened in Japan. It is slated to announce within this month criteria for selecting areas hosting resorts, which will be launched in the mid-2020s at the earliest.

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