Universal Entertainment Accuses Philippines of Taking Sides in Okada Manila Dispute

Posted on: June 6, 2022, 02:20h. 

Last updated on: June 6, 2022, 02:55h.

Universal Entertainment Corporation, which owns and operates Okada Manila through its subsidiary Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment (TRLEI), says government officials in the Philippines have wrongly picked sides in its “intra-corporate dispute.”

Universal Entertainment Kazuo Okada Manila Philippines
Japanese “pachinko king” Kazuo Okada is back in control of Okada Manila in the Philippines. But company leaders of Universal Entertainment and Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment say Kazuo’s takeover was unlawful. (Image: GGRAsia)

Last week, a raid led by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada occurred at the $2.4 billion casino resort he developed and opened in late 2016. The 79-year-old has been seeking to regain control of his namesake gaming property since he was ousted from Universal/TRLEI amid controversy in 2017.

That control came on May 31, 2022, when an army of security personnel and members of the Philippine National Police executed a “Status Quo Ante Order.” The order came from the Philippines Supreme Court, which ruled in April that Universal/TRLEI must restore its board composition to its 2017 organization with Okada in charge.

Okada denied that he stole money from the companies, which were the allegations that led to the board voting to remove him from power. The billionaire, who made his fortune through his pachinko gaming manufacturing business and by being an early investor in Wynn Resorts, argued that the board organized a coup to strip him of control.

Government Agency Denies Wrongdoing

PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, regulates each of the four commercial casino resorts in Manila’s Entertainment City. The state-owned agency maintains on-site officials at each property.

Universal/TRLEI statements on the Okada Manila raid of its corporate offices last week suggested the incident was “violent” and “illegal,” and included “assault, injury, and incitement.”

PAGCOR seemed to contradict those claims in a subsequent release that said its “monitoring team” observed the Kazuo-led takeover. But it said the executives forced off of the resort’s premises were not “bodily hurt.” The gaming regulator said its primary focus during the raid was to assure patron and worker safety, and the continuation of gaming operations.

In yet another release issued yesterday, Universal/TRLEI accuses PAGCOR of picking sides.

PAGCOR’s bias towards the Kazuo Group manifested heavily during the flagrantly violent takeover of Okada Manila by the Kazuo Group. PAGCOR’s President and Chief Operating Officer Alfredo Lim was quoted as saying that the takeover was peaceful and orderly — this despite the viral videos showing the complete opposite,” the Universal statement said.

Universal went on to say that PAGCOR “shed its neutrality in this intra-corporate dispute by openly recognizing the sham board without any legal and factual basis.”

Video Obtained

Inside Asian Gaming obtained video that claims to show Universal Entertainment Director Hajima Tokuda being forcibly escorted out of the Okada Manila corporate offices.

The Kazuo offensive, which has referred to itself as “The group of Chairman Kazuo Okada,” is now claiming corporate governance over Universal/TRLEI and the operations of Okada Manila.

The companies claim the legal process has not yet been allowed to play out. Following the Supreme Court “Status Quo Ante Order,” Universal/TRLEI filed an “Urgent Motion for Reconsideration.” The high court hasn’t commented as to whether it will take up the appeal, which would likely be the two companies’ last legal recourse to keep Kazuo from power.