MANILA, Philippines - At least four foreign groups are waiting in the wings to bid for the right to operate a casino at the Entertainment City along Roxas Blvd. as the government and the lower house start their probe into allegations bribes were paid in relation to the $2-billion integrated casino resort being developed by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada.
Manila Rep. and chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements Amado Bagatsing said some four foreign groups have expressed interest to take part in the development of a world-class gaming complex in Manila, which the government wants to turn into the country’s version of the Las Vegas strip.
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“There’s a long line waiting should Okada’s group lose its provisional license to operate a casino. More foreign players want to take part in the action,” Bagatsing said.
The Department of Justice was directed by the Office of the President to investigate the alleged $5-million bribe given by Okada’s Universal Entertainment to Rodolfo Soriano, a close associate of the former head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
The payment was made via a shell company in Hong Kong and was part of $40 million in transfers made by Universal’s US affiliate Aruze that are now subject of various investigations by law enforcement and regulators in the US and Asia. It was made at a time when Universal was lobbying to win concessions for its casino from ex-President Arroyo’s administration.
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The government last week said it would revoke Okada’s casino license if this was obtained through bribery.
Okada’s Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment is one of four groups issued a license to operate a casino in Pagcor’s Entertainment City. Its goal was to lure high-limit, VIP gamblers from China allegedly to compete head on with Wynn Macau. - By Zinnia B. Dela Peña