Pagcor boss distances himself from pachinko tycoon
The head of the Philippines’ gaming regulator appeared this week to distance himself from the Japanese entrepreneur Kazuo Okada.
The pachinko billionaire has previously been courted by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation as a strategic business partner. He wants to build a US$2.3 billion casino resort complex at Manila Bay with local Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur John Gokongwei to help investors – and the country – to capture more of the growing wealth in the region.
But the project has become mired in controversy. It includes allegations from Mr Okada’s former Macau and Las Vegas business partner Steve Wynn that he acted improperly and rendered himself “unsuitable” to be a Wynn investor when he entertained Cristino Naguiat – current chairman of PAGCOR – and other officials, at Wynn Macau. Mr Okada strongly denies wrongdoing.
On Tuesday Mr Naguiat told the media in Manila that Mr Okada faces a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, in addition to a Philippines Department of Justice inquiry into how he got a casino permit.
“We were informed of the FBI investigation and we are always open to agencies that would like to investigate,” Mr Naguiat said referring to Mr Okada.
In February Mr Naguiat told Philippine lawmakers the Wynn Resorts Ltd allegations were “besmirching our reputation as a country and as a people”. At that time lawmakers voted to bar Mr Wynn and his companies from investing in the Philippines casino sector.
Mr Okada’s casino licence was granted in August 2008 under the leadership of the previous Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino. Last September the Philippines DoJ recommended the prosecution of Mr Genuino for 175 counts of malversation of public funds and 174 counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.