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Macau's gambling kingpin plans another project

Aug 18, 2008 8:24 PM

by Ray Poirier | Stanley Ho, the gambling king of Macau, isn’t one to sit by and let invaders take his money. As a youth, while entrusted by his partners with a large cache of cash, he fended off pirateers by seizing a gun and chasing off the thieves.

So it was no surprise to the Macau insiders to hear that Ho plans to tear down his flagship casino, the Lisboa Macau, and replace it with a $1.54 billion gambling resort to better meet the growing competition.

Prior to 2002, Ho and his partners had a gambling monopoly in Macau. But the local government changed the laws to permit competition. In came the invaders from America, Sheldon Adelson with his Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Steve Wynn, head of Wynn Resorts Ltd. They were followed by MGM MIRAGE Inc. which partnered with Ho’s daughter, the influential businesswoman, Pansy Ho.

What Stanley Ho saw was a copy of the Las Vegas Strip… the new operators built facilities that were big and opulent. They made the Ho properties look old and seedy, which they were.

But Ho, whose favorite pastime, that is beside making money, is dancing, hasn’t lost a step during his 87 years. And he wasn’t about to stand still while Americans danced around him.

Currently, Ho’s 19 casinos hold a market share of 29% but that is a number that continues to fall, primarily because of the glitzy competition.

Earlier this summer, Ho took his company public, with shares trading on the Hong Kong stock market, thus giving him access to all the capital he will need to complete his vision.

Ho’s plans call for the demolition of the Lisboa early next year with his newest contribution to the Macau gambling market to open in 2012. Maybe the opening will coincide with his 91st birthday. He was born on Sept. 25, 1921.