Kazuo Okada, Tonyboy Cojuangco partner for casino project

Chris Schnabel
Tiger Resorts had to endure bumps on the road in its pursuit of the $2-billion Manila Bay Resorts Integrated Resort and Casino, including a falling out with its previous local partner, and PAGCOR's threat to suspend its gaming license
MAKING AN IMPRESSION. A rendering of Tiger Resort's planned casino, with a dancing fountain as centerpiece. It is set to open in December 2016. Image courtesy of Tigers Resorts

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has approved the gaming license extension of gambling magnate Kazuo Okada’s local affiliate Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment (Tiger Resorts), paving the way for the construction of its planned Manila Bay Resorts Integrated Resort and Casino.

The firm held a topping off ceremony for one of its two hotels on the site Thursday, July 30. It was attended by Tiger Resort’s parent firm Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC) Okada, as well his newly-announced local partner, businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco.

Tiger Resort provisional gaming license has been extended until December 31, 2016, said Francis P. Hernando, PAGCOR vice president for gaming licensing and development.

Tiger Resorts earlier said it was increasing the scale of the project thus the delay, Hernando said.

In May of this year, PAGCOR confiscated a P100 million ($2.2 million) assurance bond from Tiger Resorts due to delays in its casino project. It gave the company until mid-July to justify an extension of its timetable.

Hernando said PAGCOR had asked Tiger Resorts to comply with certain conditions prior to granting the extension, including the most important requirement– showing proof that it has the financial resources to complete the project.

For formal financial backing, UEC announced that it entered into an agency agreement in relation to privately placed notes with Deutsche Bank. The proceeds will be used to finance part of the project and is estimated to be between $600 million (P27.3 billion)  and $900 million (P41 billion).

DEMONSTRATING. Tiger Resorts president Kenji Sugiyama (left) and chairman Kazuo Okada details the features of their project. Photo by Chris Schnabel / Rappler

Biggest casino on the rise

The firm had to endure bumps on the road in its pursuit of the $2 billion (P91.2 billion) casino project, including a falling out with its previous local partner, and PAGCOR’s threat to suspend its gaming license.

But with the license extension, the entire complex is expected to be the biggest casino resort in the country upon completion in December 2016.

Aside from the two hotels, it will house a 30,000-square meter casino, complete with 500 table games and 3,000 slot machines.  Also planned are a man-made beach resort in front of Manila Bay, a nightclub, and around 25 high-end restaurants.

Tiger Resorts expects to boost tourism, as it is targeting players from neighboring countries with the new investment. It also expects to employ about 8,000 workers once fully operational.

“People say the US is No. 1 for the casino industry,  but Asia has a big chance to surpass it in the near future. This world-class entertainment property in the Philippines is just the beginning of that vision,” Okada said at the event Thursday.

This will be the third integrated resort and casino to rise in PAGCOR’s Entertainment City following Solaire and City of Dreams. Bayshore City Resorts World  is scheduled to open in 2019.

TOPPING OFF. Gambling magnate Kazuo Okada (6th from left), along with executives from his Universal Entertainment Corporation leads the topping off ceremony of the construction of Tiger Resorts casino. Photo by Chris Schnabel / Rappler

PARTNERING. Okada (4th from right) and Tonyboy Cojuangco (3rd from right) pose for photos along with officials from Parañaque City where the project is located. Photo by Chris Schnabel / Rappler

New local partner

During the Thursday ceremony, Tiger Resorts formally announced its partnership with local company All Season Hotel and Resort Corporation, headed by its president, Cojuangco.

Cojuangco said he is proud to be part of Okada’s group and that he would “help him in any way I can.” He also intends to invest in other projects in the country besides the casino, such as improving airport infrastructure, if given a chance.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be part of the project,” Cojuangco said.

Cojuangco said that he bought the shares that Tiger Resorts had to sell, which is 40% of subsidiary firm Eagle II, which translates indirectly to about 25% of Eagle I Landholding Incorporated.

Eagle I is owned by Tiger Resorts, and is the registered holder of the 44-hectare plot of land that Manila Bay resorts is being built on.

This follows its relationship with previous local partner, Century Properties, which fell apart. Century Properties had previously sued Tiger Resorts but the two sides have since settled the issue and the suit was dropped.

Cojuangco shared that the plan is to eventually list the Manila Bay Resorts project according to models that other integrated casino resorts firms have adopted.

The project will be a big boost to tourism and any investment in it would be good for the country, he shared.

“Okada has already budgeted an investment of about $2 billion (P91.2 billion) for the Philippines, so why not encourage him to do so? And personally, I feel that tourism will be one of the major revenue drivers for this country,” Cojuangco said. – Rappler.com

$1 = P45.66