Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SBMA awaits court order for subic casino closure

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Zambales, Philippines—A court order is the only thing keeping a group of hotels in this free port from being closed down due to accumulated debts, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Administrator Armand Arreza said the SBMA has not yet stopped the operations of Legend International Resorts Ltd., which owns and operates three hotels—Legenda Hotel, Grand Seasons Hotel, and Legenda Suites.

But Arreza said Legend, a Hong Kong-registered company, has accumulated debts amounting to about P877 million.

He said the SBMA was pushing the closure for “nonpayment of lease and casino fees.”

In 2006, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the government agency responsible for regulating casino operations in the country, closed the Legenda Casino and cancelled its gaming license after its operator failed to pay the government more than P365 million in gaming franchise, it was learned.

The closure came after a Pagcor special audit team discovered that Legend was charging expenses of its hotels to the casino operations, “thus, causing artificial net loss,” a Pagcor statement said.

About 200 casino personnel were affected by the closure, but the hotels remain operational.

Arreza said the firm had not been paying the lease and casino fees since 2000. “The company is already under liquidation,” he said.

A Hong Kong court in 2006 appointed a liquidator, Kevin Flynn, for the Legend group at the Subic Bay Freeport. Flynn announced in July 2006 the termination of the services of Khoo Boo Boon as chief executive officer of Legenda Hotel.

Flynn, who was tasked with helping the Legend group regain its profitability and save the jobs of more than 1,500 employees, appointed a new management and operations team.

Since then, the company has been the subject of “suits and countersuits, which merely delayed the inevitable,” an SBMA source said. By Robert Gonzaga - iNQUIRER Central Luzon Desk

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