Stanley Ho gets pass from gamers?

Jan 13, 2009 5:05 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

What a difference two years make. Perhaps Nevada officials no longer view Stanley Ho with the questioning frowns that they once gave his business dealings. Maybe he has been re-invented with all the unsightly tales of past scheming wiped away.

Two years ago his daughter Pansy Ho got an up close and personal review from Nevada’s Gaming Control Board. Lawyers and regulators spent months running up frequent flier miles between Macau and Las Vegas, checking all the issues to make sure who was naughty or nice.

The impression was that no stone was left unturned, no issue unexplored as investigators took lingering looks at her background and business dealings, searching for measures of her father’s influence. She was eventually approved as MGM’s Macau partner, not because investigators could find evidence that she was not her father’s daughter, but because, they concluded, they knew where to find the MGM offices if there was ever a problem.

Could that have had something to do with the fact her brother Lawrence Ho got a walk from the same Board last week? No one even asked him to show up.

Stanley Ho controlled Macau casinos during a period when organized crime involvement in Macau casinos was widespread. News accounts of the life and times of Stanley Ho are checkered with accusations of criminal misbehavior.

Fast forward to the present and Lawrence and Pansy are at the top of companies created by their father. Both have been described in various news accounts as heirs apparent to his empire. They are also both partnered with companies that operate or will soon be operating Nevada casinos. Pansy has her MGM deal. Lawrence is already partnered in Macau casinos with Australian billionaire James Packer who wants to buy Las Vegas-based Cannery Resorts for $1.75 billion.

Yet there was scarcely a reference to anyone named Ho and Macau in the same sentence as Packer’s well-prepared team breezed through a public session last week before the Board, a hearing that offered nothing in the way of insights about his relationships with the powers that be in Macau.

It might be argued that Lawrence will have nothing to do with Nevada. Well, neither does Pansy, but that did not stop her from getting a thorough public grilling?

Who knows what Packer’s answers to some of the questions might have been? The point is the questions were never asked in the public arena of a licensing hearing and that runs counter to the history of suitability hearings in Nevada.

We’ll see if the Gaming Commission is a bit more inquisitive when the Packer licensing reaches that body later this month.

Taiwan poised to
divert Macau business

The start of direct commercial airline flights between Taiwan and major mainland Chinese cities means Macau will lose about 500,000 tourists a year. The flights that recently began last week are the first since 1949. Taiwanese have been using Macau as a gateway to China because trips to Macau do not require a visa.

This change does not by itself seem like a big deal but couple it with the recent travel restrictions from the mainland to Macau and the effect of global economic issues and it is clear that, for the moment, Macau casino operators are facing challenges no one saw several years ago.