The Japan Sumo Association is the agency that governs the 2,000 year old sport of sumo wrestling. The group is known for its strict adherence to tradition and ritual, and has made a decision to push forward with the upcoming July 11 Nagoya grand tournament, in spite of the fact that 14 top-division sumo wrestlers won’t be competing. These wrestlers have been ousted from the tournament after they admitted to illegally betting on sports.
Japanese gambling laws forbid sports betting. Of sumo’s 700 active wrestlers, about 65 of theme recently admitted to breaking these laws by wagering on basketball, golf and other games. Japanese media has exploded with reports of yakuza involvement, and the fiasco is hitting the once-sacred world of sumo very hard.
Among the wrestlers who have been forbidden from taking part in this year’s Nagoya tournament is 34 year-old Kotomitsuki, a high-ranking wrestler who is just one level away from becoming yokozuna, or grand champion – the highest level of champion in the world of sumo. A Japanese magazine published allegations that Kotomitsuki is heavily in debt from betting on sports in Japan, and was paying off gangsters to keep quiet. Kotomitsuki and his master, along with the other 13 wrestlers removed from the tournament, may end up being expelled from the sport entirely.
The Japan Sumo Association has put together an investigative committee to look into the gambling allegations, and plans to announce a final decision about the fate of the accused wrestlers on July 4.
Despite the fact that sports betting is not allowed in Japan, many Japanese sports fans gamble on the internet. All online sportsbooks in Japan are actually hosted overseas, where internet betting is legal. Most internet betting sites that accept Japanese players are international and offer English as their primary language, but a few of the larger sites do cater to punters in Japan, offering Japanese language services and taking bets in Yen.