Okada in talks with Gokongwei on Manila tie-up; pachinko firm’s Hong Kong IPO

Gokongwei, Okada talking casino

Philippine property developer Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC), a subsidiary of Chinese-Filipino businessman John Gokongwei Jr.’s JG Summit Holdings, has confirmed it is in talks with Universal Entertainment’s Kazuo Okada to partner on Okada’s $2b casino project in the Entertainment City Manila complex. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, RLC corporate secretary Rosalinda F. Rivera stated that no agreements have yet been reached between the two entities, but that it was “usual for RLC to explore and evaluate investment opportunities.” Okada’s Universal – under the mantle of local unit Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment – is overseeing one of four Manila Bay casinos in development. Belle Grande, the Manila casino project started by Belle Corp, recently added Melco Crown Entertainment as a partner.

Okada’s Universal made its bones in Japan’s lucrative pachinko industry, but another pachinko operator is looking to become the first such firm listed on the Hong Kong exchange. On Friday, Dynam Japan announced it had cleared the last regulatory hurdle and was seeking to raise US$230m via the IPO. Institutional investors will get first crack at the stock on July 16, with retail customers allowed to joint the party on July 23 or 24. Among the ‘risk factors’ listed in Dynam’s prospectus was the threat of “acts of aggression from anti-social forces [aka the Yakuza] due to our refusal to allow their involvement in our operations.” Such concerns reportedly gave Hong Kong regulators pause, but as a source told IFRasia, “if we allow Macau casinos to list in Hong Kong, how can we not approve Dynam’s listing? Investors investing in these companies are basically facing the same risks.”

Fresh off reports that Genting Singapore’s integrated resort-casino Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is under investigation by the Casino Regulatory Authority for allegedly reimbursing local gamblers the mandatory S100/day entry fees, Genting has hired Robin Thompson as vice-president of compliance. Thompson was formerly exec director for compliance at RWS’ crosstown rival, Las Vegas Sands’ Marina Bay Sands, but stepped down from that role late last month. A source told Dow Jones Newswire that Genting “isn’t as used to working in a closely regulated environment as some other operators and thus has less institutional knowledge on regulatory compliance … they are realizing that they’ve got to do something about it.” Singapore authorities are currently considering a dramatic increase in potential fines for violations of casino regulations.