BUSINESS

Okada taps private investors for expansion; Philippine pol says Pagcor must die

TAGs: Kazuo Okada, PAGCOR, Philippines, Universal Entertainment

kazuo-okada-investors-philippine-senator-pagcorUniversal Entertainment boss Kazuo Okada told Reuters this week that he is talking with gaming regulators in both South Korea and Japan about building casinos in those countries, although he conceded “nothing is concrete for the time being.” Okada also revealed that while Universal has bankrolled the projects now in play – including his $2b Pagcor Entertainment City casino project – Okada would look to the private investors who control 20% of Universal to help fund future endeavors. In the meantime, the 25k-square-foot eponymous Okada restaurant opened in Hong Kong on Tuesday, and similar upscale eateries are set to open in Shanghai (September) and Tokyo (December). Okada’s K.O. Dining Group subsidiary expects five more non-greasy-spoons to open in Asia in 2013, followed by expansion abroad, with New York as his chosen entry point into North America.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) may have recently been singled out for praise by the country’s president, that doesn’t mean all the nation’s politicians are Pagcor fans. Senator Ralph Recto filed a bill (SB3178) this week that would abolish Pagcor, replacing it with a new outfit, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Commission (Pagcom). Recto’s bill aims to end Pagcor’s dual role as regulator and operator by privatizing its casino operations. (The House of Representatives has a bill in the works that would strip Pagcor’s ability to issue gaming licenses.)

Recto told the Inquirer that the government “has no business running gambling facilities” and should limit itself to “steering and not rowing … government should deal with coordination and control of gaming entities but should not get involved in direct gaming operation.” Recto’s bill would also impose a 5% gross revenue tax on private operators, restrict new gaming licenses to municipalities/cities with substantial tourist arrivals and institute casino entrance fees of P1k (US$23) on local residents. A Severance Mitigation Package would be instituted to ease the pain of those not kept on to run Pagcom, but anyone availing themselves of this option would be prohibited from working for Pagcom for a five-year period.

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