human rights defenders

Okada: My Philippine casino will be the best in the world

Rappler.com
Embattled Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada told an ongoing congressional hearing that he will pursue his investments in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Embattled Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada told an ongoing congressional hearing that he will pursue his investments in the Philippines and plans to make these “the best in the world.”

On Monday, February 27, Okada’s statement was read at the Lower House probe on the deals, projects and the recently reported bribery allegations between the casino tycoon and officials of state gaming firm Philippine Gaming Corp (Pagcor).

“I intend to vigorously continue my US$2 billion investment in PAGCOR’s Entertainment City…I will proceed with my plans in the Philippines,” he said in the statement, which is embedded below.

“When my company first applied for a license, I saw a great opportunity to build an entertainment and gaming complex that would rival the best in the world,” he added.  

Okada’s Universal Entertainment is one of the 4 private firms that Pagcor granted contracts to develop and operate casino-entertainment businesses at the upcoming Bagong Nayong Pilipino – Entertainment City complex at the reclaimed area in Manila Bay.

Okada was alleged to have given improper gifts to Pagcor officials to obtain the contract and maintain his Philippine businesses. Amounting to some $110,000 spent over 3 years, these gifts were cited as violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a suit of Wynn Resorts Ltd against Okada, a major shareholder.

Okada also reiterated to the lawmakers what he had told current Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat Jr. during his personal visit on Monday, February 20, the day news about the alleged bribery broke.     

“I apologize for putting Philippines in a bad light because of derogatory statements of Mr. Wynn,” Okada said, referring to his former good friend and business partner Steve Wynn “who originally was once with me in investing here but radically changed his position and opposed the idea in June 2010.”

“It was just unfortunate that Philippines (has) been dragged into the controversy personal between me and Mr. Wynn and I am deeply remorseful as to how the controversy besmirched this country’s reputation,” he added.

“Accusations against me just a ploy to divert attention from case I filed vs Wynn on gifts given to a university in Macau,” he said, referring to the case he filed against Wynn Resorts that, in turn, triggered Wynn Resorts to file a bribery case against Okada.

Wynn Resorts’ case against Okada filed at a Nevada court cited the freebies reportedly spent for Pagcor officials and their relatives during visits to Wynn facilities in Las Vegas and Macau. These were charged against Wynn’s corporate accounts.

Mr. Wynn was reportedly not keen on joining Okada in his investments in the Philippines since this will compete with its business in nearby Macau.

Mr. Wynn reportedly also had impressions that doing business in the Philippines involves bribing officials.

However, Okada is alleging that Mr. Wynn has likewise influenced Macau officials through a school donation, which is the basis of Okada’s suit against his former good friend. – Rappler.com, with reports from Ayee Macaraig