Okada vows to beat Wynn via $2B PH project
Tycoon dreams of making Pagcor City casino world’s bestBy Daxim L. Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Japanese pachinko tycoon Kazuo Okada—who is embroiled in a bruising intra-corporate dispute with his former partner, US gaming magnate Steve Wynn—has vowed to beat the latter’s casino operations by putting up a world-class entertainment complex in Manila.
Speaking to a small group of reporters on Thursday, the chairman of Japan-based Universal Entertainment—and one of four investors in the Entertainment City of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.—reaffirmed his commitment to invest $2 billion in the gaming development and, in the process, create up to 16,000 direct and indirect jobs for Filipinos in the service and manufacturing sectors.
Of the committed amount, about $100 million has already been spent by his firm locally, primarily for the acquisition of the reclaimed land on the shores of Manila Bay through a long-term lease.
Okada, speaking through an interpreter, predicted that the center of gravity of the global gaming industry would eventually shift from Las Vegas to Asia in the coming years, with the Philippines playing a significant part in attracting patrons from around the world.
“My dream is to create the best casino in the world here in the Philippines,” he said. “This is why I’m focusing on the Philippine gaming—to make it the best in the world and to beat Wynn Resorts.”
Wynn Resorts is the flagship corporation of Okada’s rival, in which he owned the largest block of shares until he was ejected in a boardroom coup three months ago.
Okada claimed that Wynn’s accusations against his alleged corrupt practices—as detailed in a report prepared by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Louis Freeh—were unfounded and fabricated merely out of fear that he would end up controlling the Las Vegas-based gaming giant.
On Wednesday, Okada also revealed that his company had been manufacturing gaming equipment in the country for several years now, which were being exported to casino operators in the US, Australia, South Africa, Macau and Singapore.
The manufacturing facility, which is located at Laguna, is involved mainly in metal pressing and plastic molding for machines used in the casino business.
Universal Entertainment—through subsidiary Aruze Gaming America—has also secured a real estate property in Batangas where it will put up another factory once the existing plant in Laguna reaches full capacity.
Okada added his firm also owned a software development company in Makati City, which makes programs for the gaming industry.
He said Universal Entertainment had some $470 million in funds ready to be used for the Pagcor Entertainment City project as construction progresses.
He said his gaming complex will be completed by 2014.
Regarding his dispute with Wynn, the Japanese businessman revealed that his former American partner had visited the Philippines in 2007 when he first broached the idea of investing in Pagcor’s project.
Wynn, he said, was initially interested, but changed his mind a few years later, reasoning that the Philippines was a “corrupt country.”
Okada opined that Wynn’s views reflected the latter’s low regard for Asians in general, and Filipinos in particular.
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