Sorry to be the bearer of bad news before the holidays but two sekitori, Hidenoumi and Shiden, have been suspended for the upcoming tournament on suspicion of gambling. The gambling was disclosed to the Kyokai by Kise-oyakata. Few details are out at the moment, such as more specifics on the nature of the gambling. While one hopes that the Kise-stablemates just leveraged insider knowledge on the Izutsu-kabu sweepstakes — or maybe engaged in some hyper-competitive rock, paper, scissors — but both are now kyujo from Hatsu 2022.
Many forms of gambling are illegal in Japan. Games like pachinko skirt loopholes and there are lotteries but organized crime and yakuza involvement in the gaming industry make it a very sensitive topic in the sumo world. Yakuza are banned from sumo venues and the Sumo Association has conducted various workshops on the evils of gambling as the sport continues to try to distance itself from the match-fixing and gambling scandals of the past.
Viewers of the recent Hakuho documentary on NHK World will recall how early in Hakuho’s reign as sole yokozuna, a rather large baseball gambling scandal engulfed the sport, ending the career of Ozeki Kotomitsuki. It is way too early to speculate on whether this particular incident will be contained to just the two current wrestlers or even whether the involvement and penalties will be as severe. But it’s fair to say that Andy is hoping it does not spread as rapidly as the Omicron variant. We will bring more updates as they come.