Jason Ader, 26 Acquisition Capital Corp Chairman and CEO, spoke on Tuesday with Asia Gaming Brief about moving forward from the ‘learning experiences’ of Okada Manila’s recent saga. The plan is to raise capital via NASDAQ listing and expand the company’s footprint in the Philippines via PAGCOR’s privatization, as well as abroad, fuelled by US investors’ growing appetite for the development of IR projects across the ASEAN markets.
The interview with Asia Gaming Brief followed the latest development in the Okada Manila imbroglio, where PAGCOR ousted Kazuo Okada camp from key positions, reinstating the previous board, led by Byron Yip.
The Chairman and CEO of 26 Capital, Jason Ader, remains bullish over Okada Manila and is equally positive on the Philippines market. Jason Ader’s aspirations include the ASEAN region, where a natural opportunity has evolved, following the diminishing of Macau revenues due to Mainland China COVID19 travel restrictions – which continue to put pressure on recovery, possibly in coming quarters and years.
Jason Ader’s priority is now listing the Okada Manila merged entity on NASDAQ by the end of the year.
The listing will raise capital to expand the company’s footprint not just in the Philippines but potentially across Asia.
The CEO of 26 Capital highlighted a growing appetite from US investors to develop Integrated Resorts projects across the ASEAN regional markets.
Of the recent action by PAGCOR, Jason Ader said, “We are very happy with the outcome. I’ve always had the view that the status quo ante order never gave the Kazuo Okada group the ability to do what they did. I’m very happy with the recent developments. There was a right decision that’s been made.”
“PAGCOR made a strong statement as a regulator,” Jason Ader confided to Asia Gaming Brief.
“Now Universal is back in control of the operations. Byron Yip is back in control. Universal is my partner in our planned merger on NASDAQ. So the focus is getting our merger complete. That’s the top priority,” the CEO of 26 Capital added.
The timeline for the conclusion of the merger/ listing is the end of 2022.
“What’s critically important to the success of the Philippines is for foreign investors to feel comfortable putting capital into the market,” the 26 Capital CEO underlined.
New President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and appointed PAGCOR Chair, Alejandro Tengco, have told Jason Ader, directly and indirectly, that they view gaming and tourism as a critically important part of the future of the country and that they want to attract foreign capital, the 26 Capital CEO shared with Asia Gaming Brief.
According to Jason Ader, US investors want profitability and are intrigued about what’s happening in the Philippine market.
“I’m committed to working with my partners at Universal, and PAGCOR, to improve the market’s perception of the Philippines so that there can be more capital provided for new integrated resorts, new developments, and new multibillion-dollar projects in what is proven to be now the fastest growing and most exciting area in Asian gaming,” the 26 Capital CEO told Asia Gaming Brief.
Of the now concluded leadership saga, Jason Ader commented: “I hope, for the Philippines, this has been a constructive experience, a learning experience.”
Aside from revision of the company financials and bringing Okada Manila to its full potential, arguably the largest IR in the country, the 26 Capital CEO is also keen on the privatization of PAGCOR, which he views as an expansion opportunity.
Much in line with other established operators, such as Bloomberry, Jason Adder is keen on his company’s growth prospects. He told AGBrief that the Philippines government has already identified potential tourist locations where PAGCOR’s casino operations are likely to be privatized to develop the region.
Jason Ader feels the Philippines is a misunderstood market which, along with Singapore, is expected to become the best performing gaming market in Asia.
Whereas Singapore is capacity constrained, Ader argues that in the Philippines, “the potential exists for there to be new development” that doesn’t just dependent on local demand but can also cater to Korean and other foreign travel.
The 26 Capital CEO underlined that there’s an opportunity for the Philippines to “capture more business than anyone could have imagined a few years ago” – pre-pandemic – particularly given how hard Macau has been hit by travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines.
Despite junkets disappearing from Asian markets, Jason Ader remains bullish over the gaming demand in China: “People talk about the junkets going away, and I think it’s all good. What it doesn’t take into consideration is the fact that the gaming demand in China is two billion people, and that demand doesn’t really change.”
Singapore never really had a junket business, nor is it running on the Chinese outbound market. Still, “think about the magnitude of Marina Bay Sands’ cashflow, exceeding $100 million per month!” the 26 Capital CEO calls out.
“The market has already evolved over the last year, but it still remains just incredibly constrained because of China zero COVID (policy).” Looking at the level of Korean play in the Philippines, “what I’m able to discern, through Solaire and Okada Manila, it’s quite encouraging.”
Jason Ader concurs that some of the demand has moved online, “but the online experience is not nearly what one can have, once they go to an Integrated Resort, whether it be Okada Manila, Solaire, or Venetian. Those are all very different, very positive experiences, for mass and premium mass.”
The decision to build the Okada Manila property was also to reflect the impression and success that Las Vegas Sands had in the Macau market, the 26 Capital CEO recollected.
Jason Ader’s background in gaming in Asia includes eight years at Las Vegas Sands: “At Sands, the company’s focus was on the math and the premium mass markets and made it a very significant and differentiated decision to not pursue junket business. Wynn Resorts built a very big building focused on junkets. Sheldon Adelson decided to master the premium mass, really the main area of focus.”
The CEO of 26 Capital CEO, Jason Ader, plans to visit the Philippines before the end of 4Q22.