In Japan and Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, (pictured) has reportedly dismissed calls for his administration to launch some form of an inquiry into whether foreign casino operators may have been seeking to unduly influence key public officials.

According to a report from GGRAsia citing information from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the 65-year-old leader also used a January 22 plenary session of the nation’s House of Representatives to detail that his government remains committed to licensing a trio of Las Vegas-style integrated casino resorts by as early as the end of next year so as to stimulate the economy and boost inbound tourism.

Ministerial malfeasance:

GGRAsia reported that the request for Abe to initiate an investigation into the possible illicit activities of some international casino firms came after Japan’s former Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Tsukasa Akimoto, was arrested and charged over allegations that he may have accepted bribes totalling up to ¥7.2 million ($65,370) from Chinese sports lottery firm This Shenzhen-headquartered enterprise had purportedly been hoping to win the right to bring an integrated casino resort to either Hokkaido or Okinawa but was ultimately later thwarted when both jurisdictions decided to pull out of the licensing race.

Expanded examination:

Akimoto is a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and has continually maintained that he is innocent of any wrongdoing. However, his arrest has reportedly set off a wider investigation by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office that has so far engulfed five other senior lawmakers including nation’s former Defense Minister, Takeshi Iwaya, and recently led to raids on the Japanese offices of Asian casino giant Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.

Presidential pressure:

The recent legislative session saw Abe asked whether he had been personally lobbied by President Donald Trump on behalf of American firms interested in winning one of the three coming Japanese casino licenses. The question from independent opposition lawmaker Kenji Eda was purportedly tied to a 2017 breakfast meeting between the two leaders at which gaming company representatives were also said to have been present.

Concerned candidates:

Las Vegas-headquartered Wynn Resorts Limited, MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corporation are reportedly known to be heavily interested in obtaining a license to operate a casino in Japan with the situation furthermore being closely followed by aboriginal firms Hard Rock International and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment.

Definite disavowal:

Although he reportedly responded to Eda’s question by declaring that ‘a number of heads’ from American casino firms had attended his meeting with the American President, Abe is said to have gone on to deny claims that he had been personally lobbied by Trump on behalf anyone seeking to do business in Japan.