Gokongwei, Okada groups announce Manila casino deals

Robinsons Land Corp., the property unit of Filipino tycoon John Gokongwei Jr, and Universal Entertainment Group, owned by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, have signed an agreement regarding the upcoming Manila casino project

NEW DEAL. The Okada and Gokongwei groups announce their agreement regarding the Manlia casino and tourism project at the Entertainment City. This photo shows the artist's rendition of the Manila Bay Resorts

MANILA, Philippines – Robinsons Land Corp, the property unit of Filipino tycoon John Gokongwei Jr, and Universal Entertainment Group, owned by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, have signed an agreement regarding a project at the Pagcor Entertainment City, Manila’s big bet on the booming Asian gaming industry.

On Wednesday, December 12, Universal Entertainment disclosed to the Tokyo Stock Exchange that Robinsons Land will acquire the following:

  • a minority stake in Tiger Resorts and in Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the Okada-led units that the Philippine government granted casino franchise to
  • a majority stake in Eagle I Land Holdings Inc, the landowner of the project site

The Okada group is developing the Manila Bay Resorts, a casino and entertainment complex that will feature luxurious hotels, restaurants, commercial facilities, a budget hotel, residences, “one of the world’s largest-scale fountains and an enormous indoor beach club.”

The deal is subject to comprehensive due diligence. Final contract will be signed by Jan 31, 2013.

Robinsons Land will be in charge of developing commercial facilities and budget hotels and housing facilities.

Okada-led Universal Entertainment is one of the 4 groups awarded a license to build and operate a gaming and entertainment complex at the sprawling 120-hectare complex in the reclaimed land in Manila Bay. 

Okada’s $2 billion casino-hotel project will be completed by 2014.

Ongoing investigations

The deal announcement comes amid investigations in Nevada and Manila regarding the alleged illegal payments made by Okada’s companies to a former official of the Philippine Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the casino regulator.

The Nevada gaming regulator is currently probing the estimated US$30 million total money transfers from Okada’s companies in the US to the companies controlled by Rodolfo Soriano, a former Pagcor consultant.

Aside from the Nevada investigation — which was triggered by a series of Reuters reports in November — Philippine officials from the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation have also commenced their probe.

In a recent hearing at the House of Representatives, officials of Tiger Entertainment told Filipino lawmakers that the money transfers did not get the nod of the company board and that cases have been filed against the executives who authorized the remittances.

Current Pagcor officials said the franchise granted to the Okada group will be recalled if the allegations are proven true.

Big business 

This marks the latest deal in the Entertaiment City. Aside from casino operators, retailers and property players have also been seeking a piece of the action.

Robinson Land, a unit of Gokongwei-led holding firm JG Summit, was initially interested in the retail aspect of Universal’s Manila Bay Resorts project. 

Previously, Sy-led Belle Corp and Melco Crown, led by Australian billionaire James Packer and Macau’s Lawrence Ho, announced their own deal on Belle Grande Manila Bay project. 

Tycoon Andrew Tan’s Alliance Global also has a $1.1-billion casino resort. The group has a joint venture with another major casino player in Asia, Genting Bhd of Malaysia.

The Gokongwei, Sy, and Tan groups have stakes in property and retail.

On the other hand, Bloomberry Investments of billionaire and global port operator Enrique Razon Jr will open a $1.2-billion casino resort in the Pagcor hub next year, and has contracted Global Gaming Asset Management for the project. – Rappler.com

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