Japanese badminton superstar Kento Momota and teammate Kenichi Tago have admitted that they gambled at an illegal casino in Japan with other teammates, their team Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. said Thursday.
Momota, 21, who has booked a spot at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and Tago, 26, who suffered a first-round exit in the London Olympics in 2012, visited a casino in Tokyo’s Kinshicho area, which was raided by police in April and May last year, according to investigative sources.
The establishment for playing baccarat was closed after the investigation, and six people, including the casino’s operator and a senior crime syndicate member, were arrested last year on suspicion of opening a casino for customers to gamble. Casino gambling is illegal in Japan.
Nippon Badminton Association secretary general Kinji Zeniya said that if the allegations are confirmed, it would “probably be impossible” for Momota to compete at the Rio Olympics.
The two arrived at Narita airport Thursday morning after taking part in an international tournament in Malaysia. They did not answer questions from the press.
The casino in question raised around ¥100 million (around $915,000) in three months from February 2015, and the police suspect the money was a funding source for the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syndicate.
The casino’s operator and others related to the members-only facility were later convicted. About 380 customers were registered as members.
Momota, who ranks fourth in the world, became the first Japanese man to take bronze in a world badminton championships singles competition in Jakarta last August.
He also captured the men’s singles title at the BWF Super Series Masters Final held in Dubai last December, becoming the first Japanese singles winner in the tournament’s history.
Tago became Japan’s first six-time national champion in 2013.
In Japan, people who breach the Penal Code on gambling are fined up to ¥500,000. Frequent gamblers can be given up to three years in prison and those found to have opened a gambling venue and earned money can be slapped with jail terms ranging from three months to five years.
Publicly operated gambling in Japan, such as horse racing and “keirin” bicycle race, is not illegal.