After a long-running ownership dispute, the Okada Manila gambling resort, the largest establishment of its kind in Southeast Asia, finally has new ownership. Or, more precisely, is back in the hands of its previous owners.
On Sunday, Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp. issued an announcement saying that the local company’s representatives have effectively taken over the gambling resort located in the Philippines capital. Hopefully, this will be the last step in what has been a long and tiring dispute for all sides involved. The statement from Universal was accompanied by a copy of the local gaming authority’s order, dated September 2, noting that the takeover of the $3.3 billion resort has been conducted in a generally peaceful way.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, (Pagcor), in charge of regulation of the Philippino gambling market, noted in the order that the body is withdrawing its recognition of the board members Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment. The board members of the developer of Okada Manila, including Filipino businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, were initially given a seat on the board by the group whose most notable member was Japanese gambling tycoon Kazuo Okada. In addition, Pagcor also instructed Okada’s partners in the Philippines to cease the operation of the resort and disburse the company’s funds.
According to Pagcor’s order, in the future, only Okada himself will be recognized as a board member. Okada was ousted from the board of both Tiger Resort and from Universal in 2017, following allegations of funds mismanagement. However, Okada and the group of his Philippino partners, have stated that they feel that Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, has defied an order from the Supreme Court. Furthermore, they announced plans to take legal action to fight Pagocr’s decision. They claim that Pagcor Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco has intervened and taken sides in what is, basically, an intra-company dispute.
The process started back in June when the ousted board members filed a lawsuit against Okada and his partners. The lawsuit included allegations of Okada’s coercion and other kinds of misconduct in what has been described as an illegal violent takeover of the Okada Manila resort. The dispute over control of Tiger Resorts, Leisure & Entertainment which is owned by the Japan-based Universal Entertainment Inc has been going on for quite some time. Okada and his group seized control o the property on May 31.
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The Okada Manila resort itself issued a statement on Sunday, following Pagcor’s order, noting that the operations will continue as usual. The resort, spreading over 44-hectare (108-acre) of land, opened its door to the public in 2016. It features 933 suites and separate villas, and a gaming floor with over 3,000 electronic gaming machines and more than 500 table games. It’s one of the four multi-million gambling resorts operating in Manila and the biggest of all of them. The Philippino capital has a rather freewheeling gambling industry that has rapidly become one of the most developed gaming markets in Asia.