Fri, Dec 14, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Okada, Gokongwei team up for casino project in Manila

AFP, MANILA

Japanese gambling tycoon Kazuo Okada has teamed up with the family of Philippine billionaire John Gokongwei for a US$1 bilion casino project in Manila, local partners said yesterday.

Robinsons Land Corp, a developer majority owned by the Gokongwei family, said it would take a minority stake in an Okada firm that owns a gaming franchise in the Philippine government’s giant Entertainment City complex along Manila Bay.

Under the deal with Okada’s Universal Entertainment Group, Robinsons Land said it would also purchase a majority stake in a company that owns land at Entertainment City.

The listed Philippine developer did not disclose the total value of the deal, which it said was still “subject to comprehensive due diligence and the signing of definitive agreements in the near future.”

Universal Entertainment holds one of four licenses granted by the Philippine gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) to build a casino worth at least US$1 billion at Entertainment City.

Of the other franchises, one involves Australian billionaire James Packer, Macau gambling tycoon Lawrence Ho (何猷龍) and a firm owned by the family of retail magnate Henry Sy (施至成), the Philippines’ richest man.

The first of the franchise holders, a firm controlled by Philippine shipping billionaire Enrique Razon, is scheduled to open its casino in March.

Forbes magazine lists the Gokongwei family, which is also involved in aviation, banking and food manufacturing, as the fourth-richest in the Philippines with a net worth of US$3.2 billion.

The Okada project was involved in controversy earlier this year when the Japanese businessman was sued in the US by partner Steve Wynn in a case involving their casino businesses in Las Vegas and Macau.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in February ordered an inquiry into Wynn’s allegations that Okada’s men gave illegal gifts to top PAGCOR officials amid the Japanese businessman’s pursuit of a Manila casino license.

PAGCOR chairman Cristino Naguiat has admitted receiving free accommodation for himself and his family at a Macau casino owned by Okada and Wynn, but insisted it was an industry-wide practice that violated no laws.

The government has not announced the results of its probe.

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