Kazuo Okada Hits Legal Jackpot, Wins Back Namesake Manila Casino

For the most part – including the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the 2022 Philippine Presidential election – there’s been a general dearth of “scandal” to report on in the legal Philippine gambling sector.

For months, the biggest story has been related to the alleged kidnappings associated with the now-banned e-Sabong market, with a few other narratives surrounding the various regional controversies regarding expanded casino gambling in the islands.

For the most part, legal online casino gambling in the Philippines – which has long been legal in an offshore capacity but was only authorized at the domestic level for “VIP” players in 2021 – has seen a generally positive reception.

In reality, nothing truly meaningful has happened in the Philippines gambling world of late, and in many ways, nothing will until the Marcos Administration takes over at the end of the month.

Even then, though, any new gambling regulations or gaming expansions could be months or even years away.

But then, out of the blue, this happened.

For those who haven’t followed this particular long-running case, here’s the background:

In 2017, the board of the Okada Manila – one of the most famous IRs in the Philippines with a valuation north of US $3.3 billion – removed founder Kazuo Okada from the company over unproven claims of “embezzlement” and alleged “misuse of company funds for personal benefit.”

Suspiciously, Okada’s ex-wife and estranged children were instrumental in swinging the vote that removed him from power.

However, Okada didn’t abandon his namesake property and go down without a fight. And after several years, the casino mogul was finally vindicated.

On April 27, 2022, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a ruling that Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI) was to restore Okada to his former post.

Not only that, but all prior company leadership was also to be restored to reflect the state of the business before Okada was forced out.

According to Akihabara News, Okada wasted no time in reclaiming his property once given the legal go-ahead:

“On May 31, about fifty security guards and police led by former TRLEI board member Antonio ‘Tony Boy’ Cojuangco, acting on behalf of Okada, arrived at the casino resort and physically removed the management loyal to the current leadership of [TRLEI owner] Universal Entertainment.

Lawyer Estrella Elamparo, who was on the scene, told the local media that senior executive Hajime Tokuda was dragged out of [the] room by ‘goons’ and effectively kidnapped before their eyes. He was eventually deposited at his home, traumatized by the experience.”

While the Tokyo HQ of Universal Entertainment has decried the action as a series of “serious criminal offences,” PAGCOR – the Philippine gambling regulator – backed the takeover as fully legal and in compliance with all applicable laws.

PAGCOR also stated that any reports of the legal takeover being “violent” in nature are non-factual.

Obviously, the now-former Okada board of directors isn’t taking this lying down. Per CNN Business:

“The ousted board of the Philippines’ biggest casino said on Monday it is suing Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada and his partners, accusing them of coercion and other misconduct in what it said was a ‘violent and illegal’ seizure of the gambling resort last week.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on this story as it develops, particularly as the Okada Manila promises to be a central part of the long-anticipated full reopening of the Philippine gambling industry in the wake of more than two years of coronavirus-related lockdowns, closures, and other restrictions.