Japanese pachinko operator/gaming device maker Universal Entertainment appears to have resolved the land ownership issues surrounding its proposed Manila Bay Resorts casino in the Philippines’ Entertainment City development. Last summer, Universal’s Philippine subsidiary Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment (TRLE) struck a tentative partnership with Philippine property developer Robinsons Land Corp to develop the $2b resort-casino project, but despite nearly a year of negotiating, the two parties failed to come to terms and the deal was officially pronounced dead in May.
The unraveling of the TRLE/Robinsons deal posed a significant problem for Universal, as Philippine law caps foreign ownership of any local enterprise at 40%. Earlier this month, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) warned Universal chairman Kazuo Okada that unless the ownership issue was resolved tout de suite, the whole project could be in jeopardy.
But Eagle II Holdings, the company that owns the land on which TRLE’s casino is being constructed, now says that two local groups have signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire at least 60% of the landowner. At a briefing on Friday, Eagle II president Jose Leagogo declined to identify the two firms, saying he was bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement with the unnamed parties. The Philippine Star quoted TRLE president Masahiro Terrada saying the deal would allow the Manila Bay Resorts to open on schedule in late 2014 or Q1 2015.
While Universal is undoubtedly pleased by Friday’s development, there’s still the little matter of the PAGCOR investigation into Okada’s alleged bribery of former PAGCOR executives. The Philippine Department of Justice had insisted that the results of the seven-month investigation were to be released before the end of June, but there’s been no further word on when that report might see the light of day. PAGCOR has warned Okada that the fate of TRLE’s Philippine casino license will hinge on the investigation’s findings, meaning Friday’s project-saving deal may yet prove to be a case of making beds in a burning house.