The Philippine casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), said in a Thursday evening statement that it had on Tuesday a “monitoring team” deployed at the Okada Manila gaming resort, at the time representatives of the resort’s founder, Kazuo Okada, had entered the premises, in what the management on site at the time described as a “violent” act of “takeover”.
Mr Okada’s side has denied violence was involved.
Pagcor said in its Thursday press release that its team had “monitored the situation with the purpose of protecting the interests of Pagcor and the government, and to ensure that operations are not disrupted and the welfare of the playing patrons is ensured.”
Pagcor is entitled to fees and other payments from its casino licensees, money that is earmarked for public use.
Pagcor’s statement gave no opinion regarding the merits or otherwise of the action of Mr Okada’s side. On Wednesday, Alfredo Lim, Pagcor president, had been quoted as saying he had been “shocked to read” that there had been allegations of violence at the Okada Manila site (pictured in a file photo).
The regulator stated in its Thursday press release: “Considering that the matter at hand involves an intra-corporate dispute pending before the Supreme Court, Pagcor, as a government regulatory body, is duty bound to observe due process and comply with the issuances and directives of the Supreme Court.”
The casino regulator added: “Pagcor understands that the incident that occurred on May 31, 2022, in Okada Manila is a consequence of the implementation of the status quo ante order issued by the Supreme Court.”
An email in mid-May to GGRAsia from casino equipment supplier Aruze Gaming Macau Ltd, a company founded by Mr Okada, had said the late-April court order in the Philippines would “restore the composition of the board of directors of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc [TRLEI] to the composition it had in 2017, before the dispute between Universal Entertainment Corp and Kazuo Okada began”.
The representatives of Universal Entertainment, that had until Tuesday been the sitting management at Okada Manila, had already countered in mid-May that the court order was only temporary, was being contested via the Supreme Court, and did not have the effect of handing Mr Okada’s side physical control of Okada Manila.
Mr Okada founded Japanese entertainment conglomerate Universal Entertainment – the ultimate parent of Okada Manila – and led it until 2017, when he was ousted after being accused of fraud, allegations he denies.
In 2017, Mr Okada had also been ousted from the board of TRLEI, the operating entity of Okada Manila, and TRLEI’s immediate parent, privately-held Hong Kong company Tiger Resort Asia Ltd.
Pagcor said in its Thursday evening press release that – based on the report of its monitoring team present during the Tuesday event – “at around 9.45am on 31 May 2022, the team from the former management of TRLEI arrived at Okada Manila.”
“They were headed by Mr Antonio Cojuangco and Mr Dindo Espeleta, accompanied by Attorney Herrera, members of the Philippine National Police, and [a] sheriff from the Supreme Court.”
The Pagcor statement added: “They proceeded immediately to the hotel’s office to meet Mr Hajima [sic] Tokuda.”
That is understood to be a reference to Hajime Tokuda, a Japanese executive linked to the then-sitting management of the resort.
Pagcor added: “The sheriff served the Supreme Court status quo ante order to Mr Tokuda. Attorney Herrera informed Mr Tokuda that based on the status quo ante order, Mr Kazuo Okada was restored as chairman and CEO of TRLEI. He then formally introduced the group of Mr Kazuo Okada (who was present at that time through Zoom conference). The videoconference ended at around 12.10pm.”
Pagcor’s Thursday statement concluded: “The Pagcor monitoring team on duty at that time reported that Mr Tokuda was then escorted outside the premises without being bodily hurt. The whole incident was covered by close[ed] circuit television (CCTV) cameras.”
Universal Entertainment had said in a Wednesday press release it would seek to file criminal charges against Mr Okada’s side, following the Tuesday incident.
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