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Casino kings lob FCPA violation accusations

Experts say Steve Wynn and Kazuo Okada’s claims might not move forward

U.S. casino magnate Steve Wynn and Japanese gaming investor Kazuo Okada are playing the blame game.

The dispute between the two gaming moguls stems from Okada’s plans to develop new casinos in the Philippines. Wynn worried the casinos could steal Chinese clientele away from his company’s operations in nearby Macau.

Last month, Okada accused Wynn’s Las Vegas-based company, Wynn Resorts Ltd., of making an “inappropriate” $135 million donation to the University of Macau. Macau, a former Portuguese colony, currently is the world’s largest gambling destination.

Wynn in turn shot back with his own accusations this week, saying Okada’s gaming company, Universal Entertainment Corp., illegally provided $110,000 in hotel rooms, dinners and other expenses to Asian gaming regulators.

Although U.S. securities regulators are investigating Okada’s accusations, and Wynn says he plans to take his accusations to U.S. authorities, experts say both sides’ claims that the other is violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)—which prohibits companies with U.S. ties from bribing foreign officials in order to secure business—might not move forward.

For one thing, Wynn’s hefty donation was to a university, not a foreign official. Wynn also says lawyers vetted the donation, which he presented to the school at a public ceremony. Paul Hastings Partner Palmina Fava told Thomson Reuters that the “transparency and openness” of the donation “run counter to any assumption that a bribe was being paid.”

Additionally, a case against Okada would be a stretch because his company doesn’t have clear connections to the U.S. Experts also say Asian culture has a tradition of gift-giving that secures relationships, whereas the same etiquette might be considered a bribe in the U.S.

Ashley Post

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