A Japanese court has dismissed gaming device maker Universal Entertainment’s defamation lawsuit against the Reuters news agency.
Universal, the Japanese pachinko and slots manufacturer controlled by billionaire Kazuo Okada (pictured), filed a ¥200m (US $1.63m) defamation claim against Reuters in late 2012. The lawsuit was filed in response to the agency’s reports detailing questionable payments Universal made to gaming regulators in the Philippines to favor the company’s resort casino project in Manila.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Tokyo District Court dismissed Universal’s lawsuit, saying the company had failed to establish any illegal activity on Reuters’ behalf. The court said the Reuters reports “either did not lower plaintiff Universal’s social reputation or even if they did, were without illegality.”
In November 2012, Reuters reported on documents showing Universal staff had authorized $40m in payments to an associate of the then head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The payments were allegedly made to secure concessions on tax and infrastructure issues involving Universal’s local subsidiary Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment and its $4b Manila Bay Resorts project.
Universal responded to these reports by accusing Reuters of “biased and unfair reporting,” although the company eventually acknowledged that the payments were “unnecessary” and launched legal proceedings against several former execs the company claimed had acted without authorization.
The Tokyo court said Reuters’ assertions “can be accepted as true” and were in the public interest, given the scale of Universal’s Philippines investment. Reuters issued a statement welcoming the ruling, insisting that its story had been “fair and accurate.” Universal has two weeks in which to decide whether to file an appeal of the Tokyo court’s ruling.