An underground poker club in Tokyo with ties to Japan’s largest organized crime synidcate, the Yakuza, was raided after authorities were given anonymous tips that the game had ties to the group.
Several local media outlets are reporting that the game was raided on April 24 and that poker tables, chips, playing cards and undisclosed amounts of money were seized. The police said that they believe the club has generated six-figures worth of profit since last July with those funds supporting the organized crime syndicate.
The club was located in the Sumida Ward area of the city and was being run out of an apartment building. It’s manager, as well as four poker players, were taken into custody after the raid.
Poker, and most other forms of gambling, is currently illegal in Japan under Chapter 23 of the Penal Code, according to Legal Gambling and the Law, which forces gamblers to enter the black market. Online poker is also technically considered illegal, but the government isn’t actively punishing sites that serve Japanese citizens and hasn’t ever arrested a citizen for playing online.
In 2018, however, the government passed a law that allowed legal and regulated casinos to enter the country. Several of the world’s largest gaming companies began its plans to obtain one of the three licenses with MGM Resorts winning a bid in February 2020 for a casino in Osaka.
Las Vegas Sands Corp., Melco Resorts and Entertainment and Wynn Resorts all said they were trying to win bids for a property in either Yokohama or Tokyo, but after the pandemic hit, Las Vegas Sands Corp. decided to recall its bid.
Neither of the two remaining licenses have been awarded yet and MGM has not even broken ground in Osaka. Even after these resorts are built, underground casinos and poker games like the one recently raided would still be considered illegal.