Sumo Gambling Scandal Involves Yakuza

On Monday, Japanese police raided yakuza offices in connection with the recently surfaced sumo gambling scandal. The police arrested three gangsters and a retired sumo wrestler on Sunday, who allegedly extorted 6 million Japanese yens (around $70,000 USD) from an illegal baseball betting broker. 38 year-old Mitsutomo Furuichi, the former wrestler is said to have helped the gangsters demand the money from the unnamed gambling broker, also a former wrestler.

In Japan, betting is legally limited to horse racing and some motor sports, excluding any other sports, like baseball and sumo, the most popular ones.


According to police reports, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s organized crime division had entered head offices of the Western Yakuza groups to which the gangsters belonged. The gangs are connected to the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest Yakuza group, with the number of members exceeding 36,000.

This scandal has once again shed light upon sumo’s undiscussed relation to the Japanese underworld, following recent discoveries that important Yamaguchi-gumi members were provided exclusive seats at sumo tournaments.

Also, at least 27 wrestlers and their masters are said to be involved in the baseball betting scandal (sumo wrestlers have admittedly been illegally betting on the results of professional Japanese baseball matches).

The sumo association has set up an investigatory panel to extinguish sumo’s links to gangsters, who often support the sport with money (just like they do in the case of baseball, as well).

Other occurences that have made sumo less popular included a drug scandal, supposed match-fixing and the 2007 death of a trainee, killed by his ’stable mates’.

It seems that sumo has never been lower, as Japanese broadcaster NHK cancelled Grand Sumo Tournaments broadcasts last month, and this has never happened in the past fifty years.