Manila integrated resort caught in Wynn-Okada crossfire

THE ONGOING tussle between Universal Entertainment Corporation chairman Kazuo Okada and Wynn Resorts co-founder, chairman & CEO Steve Wynn has cast a cloud of uncertainty over Okada Resorts Manila Bay, one of four integrated resort projects to be located within the upcoming Entertainment City development in Manila Bay.

Okada, vice chairman and largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts, has been accused by Wynn of doling out US$110,000 worth of bribes to Cristino Naguiat Jr., chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, as well as Efraim Genuino, his immediate predecessor, in the form of a 2008 Macau trip including luxury accommodation and gifts.

The accusation follows a suit Okada filed against Wynn earlier this year, for denying him access to the company’s financial records to investigate an alleged US$135-million donation by Wynn to the University of Macau leading up to 2022, the same year Wynn Resorts Macau’s gaming concession is due to expire.

The situation came to a head over the weekend when Okada was ousted from the Wynn Resorts board, and his 19.7-per cent share was forcibly bought back at 30 per cent below market value.

Various media reports have speculated that the tit-for-tat maneuvers are a result of Wynn becoming increasingly concerned over Okada’s plans to open the resort in Manila Bay, which would represent a challenge to Wynn Resorts Macau’s share of the regional gaming market.

The US$2.3-billion Okada Resort Manila Bay, to be managed by Universal’s Philippine unit, Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment, will offer 28,000m2 of gaming space and 2,050 keys across three hotels when it opens in Q1 2014. Planned attractions include an oceanarium, a sports arena, and a ‘Manila Eye’ ferris wheel.

The other licensees in Entertainment City include Belle Corp, which is targeting the completion of Belle Grande Manila Bay’s six hotels totalling 1,000 keys and 19,626m2 of gaming space by end-2013; Bloomsbury Resorts, which will run the 500-room Solaire Hotel; and Travellers International, which will operate the 2,800-key Resorts World Bayshore.

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