No casino deal with Okada group – Gokongwei
The Gokongwei-led Robinsons Land Corp is not pushing through with plans to partner with controversial Japanese pachinko billionaire Kazuo Okada for the casino project in Manila

NO DEAL. The negotiations between the Okada group and Gokongwei groups regarding the Manila casino and tourism project at the Entertainment City have failed. This photo shows the artist's rendition of the Manila Bay Resorts

MANILA, Philippines – The Gokongwei group is not pushing through with plans to partner with controversial Japanese pachinko billionaire Kazuo Okada for the casino project in Manila.

In a disclosure on Wednesday, May 29, Gokongwei’s real estate unit Robinsons Land Corp. said they will no longer go through the negotiations with Universal Entertainment Group.

“Upon mutual agreement, Robinsons Land Corporation and Universal Entertainment Group have decided not to pursue discussions between them concerning the proposed development located in the PAGCOR Entertainment City Project,” it said.

The two groups had struck a deal in July 2012 on a gaming and real estate partnership in the government’s upcoming gaming hub Pagcor City.  

Universal Entertainment is one of the 4 business groups granted the franchise to operate multi-billion casino-entertainment complexes at the 20-hectare complex in the reclaimed land in Manila Bay. Pagcor Entertainment City is Manila’s big bet on the booming Asian gaming industry.

The Gokongwei group was interested in developing the commercial, as well as and budget hotels and housing facilities.

In a previous interview, Robinsons Land president Lance Gokongwei noted that the business involves one “that’s clearly a growth industry,” citing the potential influx of gamblers from North Asia. The Philippines is a preferred destination because of its proximity to the region.

Gokongwei had also praised the government’s effort for bringing more tourists into the country. It’s an industry that the group’s airline, real estate and hotel units benefit from. The Gokongwei group operates Cebu Pacific Air, the country’s biggest budget carrier.

Okada has been dragged into a corruption scandal, with his former business partner, casino magnate Steve Wynn, accusing him of bribing Pagcor officials. The scandal has resulted in investigations by the Nevada gaming body and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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.

The Japanese gaming giant broke ground on its Manila Bay project in January 2012. Current Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat has threatened to strip Universal of its license if evidence of bribery is found. –

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