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Japan's Universal delays soft opening of US$2.4b Manila integrated casino

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The delay comes as Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte has escalated a crackdown on online gambling soon after being sworn in on June 30.

[MANILA] The Philippine affiliate of Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp said on Friday it delayed the soft opening of its US$2.4 billion Manila integrated casino project by a month to December as it assess government policies and the economic outlook.

"The initial opening of the property, including the hotel, food and beverage outlets, casino and other major attractions, will take place in December," Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc said in a statement without specifying a date.

Andrea Domingo, chairman of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) - the nation's casino regulator - told Reuters in a text message on Friday that the opening of Okada Manila was set for Dec 21.

Last year, Pagcor fined Tiger US$2.2 million and threatened to suspend its permit, citing delays in its casino-resort project.

Tiger had planned to open in November the first phase of the integrated casino-resort, the largest and most expensive project in Manila's gaming hub.

The delay comes as Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte has escalated a crackdown on online gambling soon after being sworn in on June 30.

Universal told the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Monday it was"carefully considering the optimal timing for opening the facility" in view of recent actions by the Philippines government and as it assesses the near-term economic outlook.

The company, controlled by Japanese slot machine tycoon Kazuo Okada through Tokyo-based Universal, holds one of four licenses to operate a casino complex in Entertainment City, the Philippines' answer to gaming hubs in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore.

Of the license holders, Bloomberry Resorts Corp, and the tandem of Belle Corp and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd have opened their casinos, worth more than US$1 billion each.

REUTERS