Gaming conglomerate Universal Entertainment Corp is moving with what it calls “an intra-group organisational realignment” in order to prevent regulatory action against its casino-related businesses for potential ties to people deemed “unsuitable”.
In a filing on Monday, the Japan-based group recalled it was preparing to enter the casino equipment manufacturing segment – namely including the development and sale of player tracking systems, multi-currency bill validators and fully automatically-managed casino tables and casino machines – through a subsidiary in the United States.
“In acquiring and maintaining licences for casino-related businesses in the various states of that country… members of management and shareholders must undergo strict screenings of suitability conducted by the gaming commission serving as the regulatory authorities,” Universal Entertainment noted in its Monday filing. “In cases where unsuitable individuals are present among management or shareholders, there is a risk of being unable to acquire a licence to begin with, or a licence that is already held being invalidated.”
The firm said that – based on such assessment – it was taking steps to secure a structure for its so-called “casino-related businesses”, that could prevent negative regulatory impact stemming from “a shareholder of the company’s parent who has been cited as violating governance and compliance (this shareholder is already the subject of an investigation by the Nevada Gaming Commission).”
There was no direct reference in the filing to a named individual. But Universal Entertainment has been in a highly-publicised dispute with its founder and former chairman Kazuo Okada (pictured in a file photo). As reported by GGRAsia last year, the Nevada Gaming Control Board announced an investigation into Mr Okada following litigation and feuding stemming from the removal in June last year of Mr Okada from the board of Universal Entertainment amid allegations of “three acts of fraudulence” made against the entrepreneur. He has denied the claims. Mr Okada was also removed as chairman of Tiger Resort in June 2017 during an urgent special stockholders’ meeting.
“Even should this unsuitable individual assume the post of director at the company or its parent, the company has decided to conduct an intra-group organisational realignment for those casino-related businesses… [to prevent any negative impact],” stated Universal Entertainment in its Monday filing.
Universal Entertainment said its casino-related businesses included Tiger Resort Asia Ltd – a firm connected to Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the operator of casino resort Okada Manila in the Philippines – and U.S.-based Aruze USA Inc. Universal Entertainment announced in December last year it had initiated patent litigation against U.S.-based casino supplier Aruze Gaming America Inc, a separate firm connected to Mr Okada
Universal Entertainment stated on Monday it planned to incorporate a limited liability company, which would become the direct parent of all Universal Entertainment-related companies operating in the casino-related businesses. The new firm would “employ a mechanism through which unsuitable individuals, persons acting on behalf of unsuitable individuals, etc… may not have involvement in the execution of business.”
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings