MANILA, May 11 (Reuters) - The Philippine gaming regulator has confiscated a $2.2 million guarantee payment from an affiliate of Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp and threatened to suspend its permit, citing delays in its casino-resort project in Manila.
Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc, controlled by Japanese slot machine tycoon Kazuo Okada through Tokyo-based Universal, had said it was likely to open the first phase of its $2 billion Manila casino-resort project in 2016, a year later than planned.
Francis Hernando, vice president of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), said the gaming regulator confiscated a 100 million pesos ($2.24 million) guarantee fee that Tiger had paid when it won the project contract.
Tiger declined to comment on the Pagcor move. A Universal employee in Tokyo contacted by Reuters said officials weren’t immediately available to respond to requests for comment.
Under Tiger’s original plan, the integrated casino-resort project should have been completed on March 31, 2015.
“(The fee) was forfeited. Shortly after the (March 31) deadline, we deliberated internally,” Hernando said on Monday, speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a congressional hearing on casino project updates.
Tiger Leisure’s provisional gaming license is also in danger of being suspended, Hernando said, with Pagcor saying the company has not met the minimum requirement of 50 percent project completion by the March 2015 deadline.
In February, Tiger sought for an extension of the deadline to the second quarter of 2017, citing changes in the design of the integrated casino-resort project, which was started in 2012.
But Pagcor denied the extension request and warned of a suspension of the license, which would mean the gaming firm cannot operate its casino even if it completes the project.
“We’ve given them a 90-day period to explain why their license should not be suspended. We are in that 90-day period since Apr. 21,” Hernando said.
Tiger’s project manager, Savills, said during Monday’s hearing that the project was 56 percent-complete so far.
Tiger Leisure 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 local firm Belle Corp and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd have started operations.
Meanwhile Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, partners in casino-hotel company Travellers International Group Inc, will complete the $1.1 billion Phase 1 of its Resorts World Bayshore project in 2018.
($1 = 44.6400 Philippine pesos)
Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Additional reporting by Emi Emoto in TOKYO; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell