Kazuo Okada is an interesting man; he’s very well respected and experienced in the gambling and casino industry, oh and he’s also the twentieth richest man in Japan.
Kazuo Okada, and his company the Okada Group, have been featured numerous times in gambling news.
recently due to his disputed termination of a contractual agreement with a Filipino real estate company. The dispute regards the contract for developing the proposed Manila Bay Resort entertainment complex in the Philippines.
However, besides this recent mention, Okada is known worldwide and his name goes hand-in-hand with the phrases ‘casino’ and ‘gambling’; but who exactly is Okada, what is his story, and why is he currently so important to Asian gambling?
We’ve taken some time and investigated Kazuo; and what we found out was pretty darn interesting and somewhat controversial.
Universal Entertainment Corporation
Kazuo Okada is 71 years old and he’s a self-made Japanese billionaire with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion. Since 1973, Mr. Okada has been the chairman of the company he founded, Universal Entertainment Corporation, which was formerly known as Aruze; a position he gets paid a staggering $586,59692 for annually.
Universal Entertainment is a Japanese manufacturer of slot machines, arcade games and other gaming products; the company also publishes video games. They possess licenses to manufacture and distribute casino machines to American states of Nevada, Mississippi and New Jersey, where American gambling laws are more flexible; although the company’s headquarters are located in Tokyo, Japan.
Universal also once owned 21% of the global casino operators Wynn Casino Ltd. and Okada served as a senior chairman at multiple Wynn establishments worldwide in the past. It’s not difficult to agree that Mr. Okada is a very successful business man, however quite significant controversy surrounds him.
Controversy with the Wynne Corporation
Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts, and Kazuo Okada had a 12 year friendship and business partnership; together becoming a dominant force in the Casino industry following a $260 million investment from Okada.
Resorts opened in the partnership
• Wynn Las Vegas
• Wynn Macau
• Encore (Extension of Vegas)
Between them, they controlled almost half the stock of the Wynn Resorts company which made it difficult for outside investors to have much control in the running of the business. Together they opened the Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Macau, two absurdly successful casino resorts; the pair then looked to open a casino complex in Manila Bay in the Philippines.
However, this is when things began to sour; due to the vast amounts of corruption in the Filipino gambling industry the relationship became strained as Wynn wanted to pull-out where-as Okada was eager to continue with the Filipino project. Filipino gambling laws are regulated and all gambling locations are controlled by the current government.
Ultimately Mr. Okada chose to pursue the Manila project and the partnership ruptured in 2012; things got ugly with reciprocals accusations of corrupt behavior surrounding the resort proposals. Okada resigned as vice chairman in October 2011, and Wynn forced a buy out his $2.77 billion stake in Wynn, in exchange for a promise to pay Mr. Okada $1.9 billion in 10 years; which is a 30% discounted price on the actual stock value.
Accusations of Bribery
After troubles began, both Okada and Wynn accused each other of making payments and bribes to senior Asian gambling regulatory board members. Since the accusations both have been legally investigated but Okada has more so.
The main allegation against Wynn was a suspicious donation of a whopping $135 million to the University of Macau before they had secured the license to build a casino in the Chinese province.
Wynn asked questions of Okada’s suggestions of offering gifts and lump-sums of money to officials during meetings in the Philippines; apparently Okada also offered lavish stays at several Wynn Resort locations to the same officials. Steve Wynn even hired former FBI director Louis B. Freeh to investigate Okada’s dealings with gambling regulators in the Philippines.
The FBI is currently examining Okada’s pursuit of his Philippine gaming license, any tax benefits he received and the flow of funds involved, with apparently concerns around $40 million.
Okada has vowed to sue Wynn for his forced removal from the company.
Due to recent concerns and disputes between the Okada Group, who were intending of building the Entertainment City resort in Manila, and the partner companies involved it is uncertain if the project will go ahead. Although, Mr. Okada probably won’t mind as he falls asleep tonight on his piles of hard-earned cash.
One thing is for certain though, Mr. Okada’s future, and possibly Steve Wynn’s, will no-doubt be full of legal investigations and inquires; and piles and piles of money.