Kazuo Okada's Philippine casino license in jeopardy

Nov 19, 2012 6:16 PM

Kazuo Okada may have had good intentions when he became embroiled in a power battle with former partner Steve Wynn but it appears  the Korean billionaire may end up paying far more than he could have imagined for his efforts.

To begin with, Okada’s 20 percent ownership of shares in Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) was redeemed by the board of directors, at a 30 percent discount to relative values, after an investigation alleged Okada had violated state and federal laws regarding his acquisition of a gaming license in the Philippines.

The allegations were enough to trigger further examinations of Okada’s company activities in the Philippines regarding the gambling license issued to Universal Entertainment. Especially damaging was a probe report issued by Reuters.

The Reuters extensive investigation determined Universal Entertainment had made a $5 million payment to gaming consultant Rodolfo Soriano, an associate of Efraim Genuino, former chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor). It was Pagcor that granted the casino license.

It has been reported that Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered the Department of Justice to investigate Reuters’ bribery charges. Proof of financial shenanigans could result in the Universal Entertainment license being canceled.

Okada, who gained much of his wealth with the manufacture of so-called pachinko machines in Japan, was once Wynn’s close friend and business partner. They joined forces in the formation and development of Wynn Resorts. But, a falling out reportedly developed when Okada attempted to get Wynn to join him in seeking a casino license in the Philippines.

Wynn, it was said, objected to the move citing the possible impact such gambling would have on the company’s Macau operations.

Okada then charged Wynn with improper use of company funds in seeking and receiving the Macau gambling license while Wynn alleged improprieties by Okada in the Philippines.

Lawsuits and countersuits are still being pursued by both sides in Nevada while it was reported that state gaming regulators are conducting investigations of their own.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].

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