Police in Osaka claim that illegal gambling is on the rise, with some illicit establishments managing to clear annual sales well in excess of US$1 million. Meanwhile, the Tokyo metropolitan police last week busted an illegal casino in the prominent Shinjuku Kabukicho district which had been operating for about six months. Most of these establishments have links to organized crime, the yakuza.
In the case of the Tokyo incident, several men were arrested for operating a couple of baccarat tables and about fifty illegally-configured pachislot machines. Security cameras had been positioned to monitor the front door of the shop, itself made of heavy iron.
In both cities, it is apparently common for the illegal casinos to establish a “membership system.” Prospective customers need to present identification such as their health insurance cards in an attempt to screen out undercover policemen.
According to the Mainichi Shinbun’s Osaka reporter, late at night in the city’s Minami district, touts call out in coded language with terms such as “inkaji” (internet casino), “yamisuro” (illegal slot machines), and “meguri” (baccarat).
The same reporter interviewed a high-level yakuza who told him, “Internet casinos are an efficient business. The police cannot figure out how many establishments exist in the Minami district.” This is partly because the shops may move their precise location every several months to defeat police investigations.
However, another threat comes from rival yakuza groups attacking their rivals. Indeed, on Tuesday the Osaka police arrested five yakuza for violence committed in early February, which they said was related to a management dispute over an illegal casino.