Another Japan player axed as casino scandal deepens

The Nippon Badminton Association said it removed 21-year-old Kenta Nishimoto from the squad's player list after learning he had visited a casino at least twice last year.

Kenta Nishimoto was removed from Japan national team for visiting a casino.   -  BWF

Japan's crisis-hit national badminton team suffered a further blow Tuesday after another player was yanked from its roster in the wake of an illegal casino scandal.

The Nippon Badminton Association said it removed 21-year-old Kenta Nishimoto from the squad's player list after learning he had visited a casino at least twice last year. Gambling is mostly illegal in Japan.

Tuesday's shock announcement closely followed World No. 2 Kento Momota being kicked off Japan's Olympic badminton team for gambling at an illegal casino, dealing a major blow to the country's medal hopes at Rio this summer.

The association threw the book at 21-year-old Momota, banning him from competition indefinitely. Teammate Kenichi Tago, also found guilty of placing illegal bets, was removed from the organisation's official player list for an indefinite period.

"Nishimoto told us he went to an illegal casino in Tokyo twice between February and March last year," association official Yuichi Tando said. "He said he went to the casino, but didn't do any gambling."

It is not clear if Nishimoto would qualify for the Olympic squad.

Earlier this month, top-ranking Momota dyed his highlighted hair black as an act of contrition as he appeared in front of the cameras to apologise for his actions. He admitted visiting a casino six times and gambling away 500,000 yen (around $4,500). Tago, a six-time Japanese champion, spent almost $100,000.

The incident comes after a betting scandal sent shockwaves through the country's most popular sport, baseball, just as it is bidding for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

People found guilty of gambling in Japan can face jail terms of up to five years, but publicly-operated gambling for sports such as horse racing and "keirin" bicycle racing is not illegal.

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