Universal Entertainment Accuses Philippines Regulator of Corruption and Abuse of Power

The dispute revolving around the hostile takeover of Okada Manila continues to build up momentum as the Philippine gaming authorities side with Kazuo Okada. Universal Entertainment Corp (UEC) issued a statement condemning PAGCOR for corruption and unjustly favoring one side of the dispute. UEC is the parent company of Okada Manila’s owner, Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI). A Status Quo Ante Order by the Supreme Court of the Philippines restored Okada to his 2017 position as chairman and CEO of TRLEI, and set off a chain of events ending in the forceful takeover of the resort.

PAGCOR Claims That Takeover Was Peaceful, Video Evidence to the Contrary

Alfredo Lim, President and Chief Operating Officer of PAGCOR, previously exclaimed that he was shocked to read about the violence and intimidation during Okada’s forceful takeover of the resort. However, his most recent statement regarding this event described the takeover as peaceful and orderly despite mounting video evidence showing the forceful eviction of Universal Entertainment representatives from the casino. The regulator has confirmed that the group of around 50 people who stormed the resort also contained their own monitoring team “with the purpose of protecting the interests of PAGCOR and the Government.” They also added that they were bound to “comply with the issuances and directives of the Supreme Court.” 

PAGCOR’s statements quickly prompted a reply from UEC. The Japanese conglomerate issued a statement condemning the “biased involvement” of the gambling regulator in what they claimed was an intra-corporate dispute outside of PAGCOR’s field of operations. They continued by stating that the regulator’s recognition of Dindo A. Espeleta as TRLEI’s new representative had “confirmed Pagcor’s favor to the group of Kazuo Okada.”

Universal Entertainment Corp also pointed out the differences between Alfredo Lim’s comments that the takeover was peaceful and orderly and the videos showing the exact opposite. PAGCOR is “not permitted to exercise its regulatory powers by favoring a party in an intra-corporate dispute,” UEC added and decried the regulator’s statements as “manifest bias is an act of graft and corruption under Republic Act 3019.”

Universal also drew attention to the point that Kazuo Okada only owned one share in TRLEI in 2017, which was also removed from him by the end of the year. In addition, only shareholders of its Hong Kong-registered subsidiary Tiger Resort Asia Ltd (TRAL) – which owns 99.9% of TRLEI – have the right to appoint TRLEI board members. “PAGCOR is well aware of these facts, and yet it has acted with an obvious bias in favor of the Kazuo Group,” Universal said in their statement.

UEC is now imploring the Philippine gaming authorities to return to a neutral stance regarding this dispute and has expressed its willingness to exhaust every available legal option to protect the interests of its shareholders. One possible avenue would be to bring the case before the courts in Hong Kong, where TRAL is registered. UEC is based in Japan, and the Tokyo District Court, Tokyo High Court, and Japanese Supreme Court all previously ruled that Okada’s ousting was valid. This bodes for a long and messy legal battle, but for the time being, it’s Okada who is calling the shots at Okada Manila.