International edition
June 19, 2021

Gaming regulators to make a decision

Government could ban Wynn from building in Philippines

(Philippines).- A Philippines House of Representatives committee voted last week to ban outspoken Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn from ever building a resort in the Philippines. Officials were angered by recent comments Wynn made regarding corruption. The measure in now in the hands of gaming regulators.

W

ynn Resorts accused Okada of paying us$ 110,000 in cash and gifts to Philippine gaming regulators, including Cristino Naguiat Jr., chairman and CEO of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Naguiat has denied accepting any "improper payments" from Okada.

Wynn Resorts officials contend Okada, who owns the Tokyo-based gaming company Universal Entertainment Corp., violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and company policy, making himself unsuitable to own Wynn stock.

This isn't the first time Wynn has offended foreign officials. In 2005, while bidding for a gaming license in Singapore, he publicly criticized the "control and direction" offered by Singapore tourism leaders as "unsophisticated" and from "people who have never done this before."

In response, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong admonished Wynn, who then withdrew his bid. Wynn Resorts declined comment last Wednesday on the potential ban in the Philippines, but past comments indicate that the company probably isn't worried.

In a February 21 analyst conference call, Wynn Resorts director and former Governor Bob Miller said the board is unlikely to ever approve doing business there. "We advised ... (Wynn) to cancel this meeting that had been scheduled with Philippine President (Benigno) Aquino ... which he did," Miller said in reference to a planned meeting to discuss possible investment.

Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing, chairman of the House gaming panel, said on Monday that Wynn removed Okada, alleging corrupt practices, because he wanted to "derail" a government-supported $15 billion Entertainment City project near Manila Bay. The development threatens Wynn casinos in Macau and in the United States, he said.

"So I look at this machination of Mr. Steve Wynn as a direct affront on our country," Bagatsing told the Philippine Star newspaper after the committee vote.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry joined in Wednesday, also condemning Wynn. "The sweeping characterization of the Philippines as a corrupt nation on the sole basis of the allegation that a gaming license was granted to Mr. Kazuo Okada for a period of 25 years for the Entertainment City Project in exchange for favors supposedly received by PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) officials does not depict a fair and accurate picture of the country," the group said in a statement.

The business group called Wynn's comments a setback to Aquino administration efforts to curb corruption.

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