Wynn: Corruption 'ingrained' in PH gaming industry

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2012 06:05 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2012 03:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - US-based Wynn Resorts said corruption was the main reason it rejected Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada's repeated requests to form a joint venture in the Philippines.

The famous casino operator revealed this in a suit it filed on Tuesday wherein it accused Okada, co-founder and director of Wynn with 19.7% stake in the firm, of spending thousands of dollars in travel expenses and gifts on officials of Philippine gaming regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

In the said complaint filed before the district court of Nevada, Wynn said it commissioned its own investigation to assess the gaming industry in the Philippines.

As early as 2011, it said it had come to a conclusion that corruption was "deeply ingrained" in the industry, and even President Aquino's plans for reforms would not eliminate it.

It added that the Philippines' legal and regulatory framework was not closely aligned with US transparency standards.

US lawsuit

Wynn accused Okada of breaking US laws on foreign bribery when he paid off Pagcor officials to make sure his gaming venture in Manila went ahead.

Wynn said the Japanese tycoon went behind the back of his Las Vegas partner and Wynn owner, Steve Wynn, to develop his own Universal Entertainment group in the Philippines. Okada is an investor in Pagcor's $4-billion Entertainment City project in the Manila Bay reclamation area.

Wynn said Okada spent over $110,000 for two chairmen of Pagcor from 2008 to last year.

Malacañang has confirmed that current Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat had accepted free hotel stays at Wynn's Macau resort, but said this was standard practice in the gaming industry as foreign casino chiefs also receive free accommodation when they visit here.

In its suit, Wynn alleged that Naguiat, his wife and three children, nanny and other officials stayed at Wynn Macau for five days in 2010, during which Okada met with the Pagcor chairman to discuss his Manila venture.

Naguiat was allegedly given the most expensive room at the resort and $20,000 cash for gaming and shopping.

The suit also alleged that Naguiat's predecessor at Pagcor, Efraim Genuino, had expenses paid for during a 2010 visit to Macau and that Okada paid for his trip to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. - Reports from Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN North America Bureau; and AFP