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Unless cleared, Pagcor won’t allow Okada casino to operate

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) assured lawmakers yesterday that the agency will not allow Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada to operate his $2-billion casino complex in Parañaque City if the businessman’s firm is charged for violating foreign ownership rules.

Pagcor officials issued the statement during the hearing of the House committee on games and amusement on Wednesday after its chairman, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., sought a definitive position from the state gaming firm on the Okada issue.

Barzaga said he would not want the government to be sending the wrong signals to Japanese and other foreign investors, even as Okada’s group continues to pour in millions of dollars to build the Manila Bay Resorts in the Entertainment City complex. The world-class gaming complex is expected to open next year.

The landowner of the project site is Eagle 1 owned by Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Corp., one of Pagcor’s four licensees for Entertainment City. Tiger Resorts is a unit of Japan-based Universal Entertainment Corp. that Okada owns.

Pagcor chief counsel Jay Daniel Santiago said the state gaming corporation would recall the provisional license issued to Okada’s Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc. if the Department of Justice (DOJ) pursues a criminal complaint against the firm.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had formed a task force to investigate allegations that Okada violated the Anti-Dummy Law and the 60-40 foreign ownership rule of the Constitution.

“If a case is pending, no license will be issued to Tiger,” Santiago told the congressional panel.

However, lawyer Joseph Joemer Perez, representing Tiger and Eagle 1, contested Pagcor’s position, saying questions about foreign ownership of land and investments should be resolved not by the DOJ but by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Perez also told lawmakers that his clients have contested the formula used by the NBI in determining whether or not Okada exceeded the 40 percent limit on foreign ownership.

Eagle 1 lawyer Jose Luis Leagogo told the inquiry that there has been “no determination yet whether we violated” the constitutional provisions on land and business ownership by foreigners.

 

ANTI-DUMMY LAW

CAVITE REP

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

ELPIDIO BARZAGA JR.

ENTERTAINMENT CITY

JAY DANIEL SANTIAGO

JOSE LUIS LEAGOGO

JOSEPH JOEMER PEREZ

OKADA

PAGCOR

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