Jersey continues Ho-MGM probe

Sep 11, 2007 4:17 AM

New Jersey’s review of the Pansy Ho-MGM Mirage partnership in Macau continues inching its way through the bureaucratic process as a variation on the same theme — this one involving her brother — has begun taking shape in Nevada.

But let’s take them one at a time, beginning with the case involving Pansy.

Unofficial sources familiar with the progress of New Jersey regulators say investigative work was completed in August, and the report is being written this month with the final product likely being passed up to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

The same source says the review of the partnership between MGM and the daughter of longtime Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho, will probably be given to the state’s Casino Control Commission without a recommendation by the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

Why is this?

"Because they (DGE officials) don’t have any balls," was the biting reaction of another source who offered views only with the promise of anonymity, for obvious reasons.

Which is another way of saying this is a decision with huge consequences, particularly if MGM sells off its half-interest in the Borgata and does not dump any more capital spending into the state.

That’s why the extended period of time that it has taken the state to complete the review and the expected lack of a DGE recommendation is not surprising.

Nevada months ago approved MGM’s participation in the partnership that will own a Macau casino that is expected to open late this year. It had been expected New Jersey would finish its work by early summer.

But surprise, surprise, the former DGE director quit to take a job in the gaming industry, even as the Ho-MGM review was wending its way through the process

In the meantime, conditions may be taking shape for another variation on the same theme, at least in Nevada.

Australia’s James Packer, who controls the PBL part of the Melco PBL partnership that owns Macau casinos, wants to invest in the Fontainebleau Resorts project near the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. Hong Kong-based Melco Entertainment (the former Macau Electric Light Company) is run by Stanley’s son Lawrence.

It’s not difficult to imagine Lawrence being asked for his response to questions Pansy has already answered about Stanley’s influence on the business interests of his children.

The 231-carat Wynn Diamond remains secure in a safe at Wynn Las Vegas as its owner Steve Wynn considers the myriad details related to its expected official coming out party early next year.

The pear-shaped "rock" that Wynn spent millions obtaining will eventually be displayed at his Diamond Suites hotel in Macau.

The purchase that Wynn was able to make after scouting the world with the help of a "secret agent" is not the developer’s first foray into the use of high profile jewels and precious metals as a marketing strategy.

About 25 years ago he spent just over a million dollars to buy what was then one of the largest golden nuggets in the world. Wynn bought it in Australia and flew it back to Las Vegas where it has been on display at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street all these many years even as the property passed into the hands of other owners.

The original Australian owner of the nugget was asking just under a million dollars when he and Wynn got together, but according to one insider, Wynn said, no, the price was definitely not right.

Wynn decided he was going to have to pay more than that so that he could advertise "The Hand of Faith" nugget as costing more than a million.

 He wrote a check for one million and one dollars. In the case of the Wynn Diamond there will be absolutely no need to stretch anything for the sake of effective marketing. The cost of the jewel — Wynn will have more to say about that later — and the mounting have already sailed well beyond what he spent on the nugget.

 Wynn announced his purchase of the diamond from an unidentified Russian a number of months ago but has since stopped public discussions of the deal as he awaits the creation of a mounting by one of the big names in the jewelry business, something that will do it justice.

The diamond may be shown at a certain upcoming charity gala but Wynn is reportedly not ready to commit himself yet.