Businessman behind Manila casino lands in Forbes Rich List

By Lala Rimando,

Posted at Jan 13 2010 12:34 PM | Updated as of Jan 14 2010 03:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines (1st update) – The main investor of a firm behind the $2 billion-worth casino in the country's biggest tourism and entertainment project joins the list of richest in Japan.

In a recently released Forbes Asia Rich List, Kazuo Okada, the vice chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd., the firm behind a landmark casino-cum-tourism project, was named the 26th richest in Japan for 2010.

Forbes Asia magazine estimated that Okada has a networth of $1 billion. 

Okada is the chairman of Universal Entertainment (formerly Aruze Corp.), the biggest shareholder of Wynn Resorts, which won the right to build a casino, an anchor locator at an integrated entertainment complex owned by state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). 

The project, dubbed the “Entertainment City Manila”, sits on a 120-hectare reclaimed property in Paranaque City near SM Group’s now bustling Mall of Asia.

Wynn Resorts is run by American billionaire Steve Wynn, who chairs and has about 18% stake in the gaming firm with casinos in Las Vegas and Macau.

Okada’s Universal Entertainment has about 20% stake in Wynn Resorts.

Forbes Asia magazine noted that Okada’s Universal Entertainment, a 40-year pachinko and slot-gambling company, "expects to return to profitability this fiscal year thanks to strong sales of new pachinko machine featuring Don Chan character."

Pachinko is the pinball-like machine where players seek to amass small steel balls that can be exchanged for prizes such as stuffed toy animals instead of cash. The game was designed as a work-around to Japan’s laws, which consider casinos as illegal.

Japan’s Richest

Five of the Japanese businessmen who made it to Forbes Asia’s list of 40 richest in Japan are involved in the gaming business.

Aside from Okada, who placed 26th, the other businessmen also engaged in gaming are:

  • Kunio Busujima, founder of Sankyo, also a pachinko gambling machine maker; 5th richest with wealth worth $5.3 billion
  • Yokyu Kanazawa, runs Sanyo Bussan, maker of marine-themed gambling machines sporting bikini-clad figures; 15th richest with wealth of $1.8 billion.
  • Han Chang-Woo, owns Maruha, Japan’s largest operator of pachinko parlors; 17th richest with $1.7 billion wealth
  • Hajime Satomi, founded Sega Sammy, maker of gaming softwares and pachinko gambling machines featuring anime-and-comic-book characters; 32nd richest with $780 million wealth

The wealth of all 5 pachinko gambling machine increased in 2009, a year when Japan slipped back into deflation, according to Forbes Asia’s piece on the 40 richest in Japan.

The magazine noted that Japan’s 40 Richest are worth a combined $87 billion, up 25% from $69.5 billion in February, when the 2009 rankings were published. The top 4 tycoons accounted for two-thirds of that jump, the magazine said.

The cover story of the magazine’s January 2010 edition is Japanese internet entrepreneur Yoshikazu Tanaka, (18th in the list with $1.6 billion net worth). Forbes Asia noted that Tanaka is the youngest self-made billionaire in Asia.

Tanaka is the founder of Japanese social networking site, Gree. He is next to Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, in Forbes’ list of “The Next Bill Gates,” which noted that the technology business is a good place to make fortune while still young.

Tanaka is 32, while Zuckerberg is 25.