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Best of Chris Sieroty

Gaming Guru

Chris Sieroty
 

Okada's Universal Entertainment calls Philippines payment unnecessary

22 May 2013

Universal Entertainment Corporation, the Tokyo-based company controlled by gaming magnate Kazuo Okada, called a $25 million payment at the center of an FBI investigation into possible bribery in the Philippines “unnecessary.”

Universal had booked the $25 million payment to Subic Leisure as an expense to resolve a land rights dispute surrounding its $2 billion resort project on Manila Bay. But Universal officials said Monday “the land problem could be legally resolved prior to signing a consulting contract with Subic Leisure.”

In its annual earnings report, Universal stated an independent internal investigation had determined the payment to Subic Leisure should not have been paid.

The disclosure comes as the FBI and gaming regulators in Nevada and the Philippines are investigating allegations of improper payments made by Universal to win concessions to build its Manila casino.

Okada remains involved in a bitter dispute with former business partner Steve Wynn, who forcibly redeemed Okada’s 19.66 percent ownership stake in Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Ltd., after an investigation conducted for the company determined that Okada had engaged in improper activities while developing the Manila casino that violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The federal law bars improper payments from businesses or individuals to foreign officials for a business advantage. Both Wynn and Okada have denied any wrongdoing.

Universal reported a net profit of $268.1 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, down 12.5 percent from last year.

Universal established the independent investigative committee, which has yet to release its findings, in January to investigate its business in the Philippines.