Naguiat got free rooms, not gifts: Pagcor

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 22 2012 05:20 PM | Updated as of Feb 23 2012 02:54 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' gaming regulator confirmed Wednesday that top officials accepted free luxury accommodation from a Japanese tycoon but denied these were bribes to ensure a new Manila casino was built.

US-based Wynn Resorts filed a suit on Tuesday accusing Kazuo Okada of spending more than $110,000 in travel expenses and gifts on the officials so that his rival gaming resort in the Philippine capital went ahead.

The suit against Okada, a director of Wynn with a 19.7-percent stake in the firm, alleged the suspect payments were made to two chairmen of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) from 2008 to last year.

The top officials' relatives and associates were also beneficiaries, as was the current chairman's nanny and the husband of then-president Gloria Arroyo, the suit alleged.

Pagcor Vice President Francis Hernando told AFP Wednesday that current Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat and other officials had accepted free hotel stays at Wynn's Macau resort, but said this was standard business practice.

"They were complimentary rooms extended as a basic courtesy," Hernando said.

"This is standard practice not limited to the casino industry, for the airlines, as well. For hotels (the hotel industry) it's the same thing."

The suit alleged that Naguiat, his wife, three children, nanny and company officials had a five-day trip to Wynn's Macau resort in 2010 during which Okada met with the Pagcor chairman to discuss his Manila casino venture.

Okada allegedly ordered that Naguiat be given the most expensive accommodation at the resort -- a $6,000-a-night villa normally reserved for high rollers -- as well as use of the casino's best butler.

More than $50,000 was spent on Naguiat's visit, including about $20,000 in cash given to the Filipino delegation for shopping and gaming, the suit alleged.

Naguiat also requested and received a Chanel designer bag worth 15,000 Macau patacas ($1,878) for his wife, according to the suit.

Hernando said Naguiat and his party had accepted free dinners as well as accommodation during the visit, but stressed these and the accommodation were a standard courtesy that Pagcor offered to its guests in the Philippines.

Hernando also insisted the allegations of cash payments and gifts were false.

"The insinuation that there were other things given beyond the standard reciprocity is malicious. They were not given anything else," he said.

Arroyo's government awarded Okada's Universal Entertainment one of four gaming licenses in 2008.

It broke ground for its Manila Bay Resorts casino on January 26, promising ultimately more than 2,000 guest rooms in three hotels, with the opening slated for the first half of 2014.

Hernando said the Wynn suit would not impact Okada's plans for Manila.

"It's full steam ahead as far as its execution is concerned," he said.