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Philippine gaming regulator says to penalise Universal for delayed casino launch

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Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the local affiliate of Universal which is controlled by gaming magnate Kazuo Okada, said last month it was likely to launch the first phase of its casino-resort project in 2016, a year later than planned - PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

[MANILA] The Philippine's gambling regulator will penalise the local affiliate of Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp if it fails to open a US$2 billion casino-resort along Manila Bay next year as planned, the head of the state authority said.

Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the local affiliate of Universal which is controlled by gaming magnate Kazuo Okada, said last month it was likely to launch the first phase of its casino-resort project in 2016, a year later than planned.

Asked if the regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), would penalise Tiger for not meeting the deadline, its chairman Cristino Naguiat said Tiger would lose a 100 million pesos (US$2.24 million) guarantee that all casino operators maintain with the regulator. "Based on the project implementation plan, they are supposed to finish it by March next year," Naguiat told reporters late on Tuesday.

He also said the regulator may take other measures against Tiger. "The lawyers are looking into it," he added.

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Tiger officials were not immediately available to comment.

Tiger holds one of four licenses to operate a casino complex in Entertainment City, the Philippines' answer to gaming hubs in Las Vegas and Macau.

The company has yet to say why the project, which started being developed in 2012, would be delayed. The regulator has said that Tiger has so far failed to secure a local partner to address land ownership restrictions that it is currently in violation of.

The Philippine constitution bars foreign entities from owning more than 40 per cent of land. In 2012, an arm of the Philippine justice department published a legal opinion indicating the Okada group had breached the constitution.

Three other groups hold licenses to operate in Entertainment City.

Bloomberry Resorts Corp opened the first phase of its US$1.2 billion casino-resort last year.

The joint venture of local firm Belle Corp and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd 6883.HK is expected to open the City of Dreams Manila casino-resort this year, a project worth over $1 billion.

Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd , partners in casino-hotel firm Travellers International Hotel Group Inc, expect to complete their casino-resort project in Entertainment City by 2018. - Reuters

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