Okada Manila casino, at centre of ownership dispute, gets more visitors

July 12, 2022 - 9:54 AM
An employee works at Okada Manila's indoor beach club in Paranaque, Philippines, July 11, 2022. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Okada Manila, the Philippine casino at the center of a bitter dispute about its ownership, saw a pick up in visitors in June from the month before, management said.

Foot traffic climbed 8% from May and was around 74% of its pre-pandemic level, it said in a statement, adding the casino planned to open more shops and add entertainment attractions.

“With the economy and borders opening up, Okada Manila is expected to sustain the momentum,” management said in the statement as it held its first news conference since it took physical control of the casino on May 31.

Filipino associates of Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada seized the $3.3 billion casino, which is owned by Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment, ousting its previous management with the help of private security guards and local police.

The move came after the Philippines’ Supreme Court in April issued a “status quo ante order”, reinstating Okada, who had been ousted in 2017, as CEO of the casino-resort.

Tiger Resort’s ousted board has sued Okada’s group, accusing it of using “brute force and intimidation” in a “violent” takeover of the property, and has also appealed the court decision.

Norman Golez, Okada’s lawyer, told Monday’s news conference the May 31 takeover was legal and peaceful.

The ousted board reiterated on Monday that it was in fact “a violent takeover”.

Tiger Resort, owned by Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp 6425.T, said Okada Manila’s growth was driven by a recovery plan developed by previous officials, and influenced by the pent-up demand for leisure activities. Okada was also ousted from Universal’s board in 2017.

Universal has agreed to merge Okada Manila with 26 Capital Acquisition Corp ADER.O, a Nasdaq-listed blank check firm, for $2.5 billion and has extended its deadline for the merger to Sept. 30 in the wake of the takeover of the property.

26 Capital has said it believes Universal will be back in control of Okada Manila soon.

The 44-hectare (108-acre) Okada Manila started operations late in 2016. With 993 suites and villas, 500 table games and 3,000 electronic gaming machines, it is the biggest of four multibillion-dollar casino-resorts operating in the capital of the Philippines, which has one of Asia’s most freewheeling gaming industries.

—Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Mark Potter