Universal Says Robinsons Talks on Casino Put on Hold

Universal Entertainment Corp. said talks with Philippine billionaire John Gokongwei’s Robinsons Land Corp. to jointly build a casino in Manila were put on hold.

Universal, controlled by Japanese pachinko billionaire Kazuo Okada, will consider developing a casino in the Philippines on its own or with other partners, the Tokyo-based company said today in a statement.

Robinsons Land, the Manila-based developer, said in December that it had signed a preliminary agreement with Universal for the project. Okada faces a U.S. criminal investigation related to his Philippine casino project, with the U.S. asking to intervene in a lawsuit by Wynn Resorts Ltd. accusing Okada of making improper payments to Philippine gambling regulators.

“We put the talks with Robinsons Land on hold,” said Nobuyuki Horiuchi, Universal spokesman. “We will continue to work on the casino project in the Philippines with other partners or by ourselves.”

Robinsons fell as much as 3.9 percent before paring the decline to 1.8 percent, the biggest drop in almost two weeks, to 24 pesos at the close in Manila trading. Universal fell 0.6 percent to 2,032 yen at the close in Tokyo.

The two companies “have decided not to pursue discussions between them concerning the proposed development,” Robinsons Land President Frederick Go said today in a mobile phone message.

Okada, who amassed a fortune selling machines for Japanese pachinko parlors, won one of four provisional gaming licenses awarded for the Manila casino hub in 2008. He has sought to expand in the Southeast Asian nation, where the government is setting up a casino center that would compete with Macau, the world’s biggest gaming hub, to draw gamblers and tourists from China.

Okada has denied the Wynn allegations of improper payments to Philippine gambling regulators.

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