Okada Manila Could Be Player in New York City Casino Competition

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Okada Manila Could Be Player in New York City Casino Competition

When it wraps up its merger with a US-based special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Okada Manila could enter the competition for a New York City casino license.

Okada Manila
Okada Manila
The Okada Manila integrated resort in the Philippines. The operator is rumored to be interested in a New York casino license. (Image: Forbes)

Sportico initially reported the rumor. In a deal valued at $2.6 billion, Jason Ader’s 26 Capital (NASDAQ:ADER) is acquiring Okada Manila. When that transaction closes, the gaming stock will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker “UERI” upon closure of the transaction.

That merger was originally slated to close last month, but was delayed after billionaire Kazuo Okada attempted to physically seize control of the Philippines integrated resort bearing his name. He claims he was unjustly ousted from the board in 2017 and is looking to force the gaming company to adhere to a recent ruling by the Philippines Supreme Court ordering that the operator’s board be returned to its 2017 composition.

26 Capital is forging ahead with the merger. Universal Entertainment, the Japanese pachinko giant that’s the parent company of Okada Manila, is rolling 100 percent of the equity in the casino operator, and Ader’s 26 Capital is providing up to $275 million in cash to the business.

How Okada Manila Fits in New York Scene

New York’s 2023 budget features a process to award three downstate casino licenses. The New York metro area’s two gaming venues — Resorts World New York City in Queens and MGM’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers — are currently limited to offering slots.

However, it’s expected that those properties will procure rights to convert to full, traditional casinos, leaving multiple contenders to vie for a single gaming permit.

Should Okada Manila pursue that opportunity, it will be entering the ring already rumored to be full of gaming industry heavyweights, including Hard Rock International, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts. Those are deep-pocketed companies with the brand recognition and reputations that are likely alluring to New York developers and policymakers.

Previously, Bally’s was rumored to be among the operators interested in a New York casino. Still, it’s unclear if that company’s $1.7 billion project in Chicago could temper its Big Apple ambitions.

Okada Manila Eyes Expansion

If Okada Manila were to list on the Nasdaq today, it’d be the smallest US-listed gaming company by number of properties with just one. Monarch Casino & Resort (NASDAQ:MCRI) currently holds that distinction as it owns two gaming venues.

Looking further out, it’s unlikely the standalone version of Okada Manila will remain a one casino company on a permanent basis. Last October, Ader said the operator could consider opportunities in Japan as that country’s regulated casino industry takes shape.

Owing to its established footprint in the Asia-Pacific region, Okada Manila could also be a player in new and expanding markets there, but it hasn’t commented to that effect beyond the aforementioned interest in Japan.

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