Jersey blinded to Ho as a visionary

Jun 9, 2009 5:04 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

Yet, praise heaped on Asian mogul

The delicious irony … it keeps on coming.

New Jersey’s DGE declared Pansy Ho to be an unfit partner for MGM MIRAGE in a Macau joint venture because of papa Stanley Ho’s reputation involving those pesky allegations of connections to Asian organized crime.

None of which has stopped the Macau mogul himself from being a man responsible for assorted big deeds that have brought a lot of money and development to the former Portuguese enclave.

So what are we to make of the fact that certain people who have benefited from all he has accomplished feel driven to say nice things about him?

Last week the elder Ho received the Asia Visionary Award at the Global Gaming Expo Asia in Macau. This Asian version of the big annual Las Vegas trade show drew gaming professionals from throughout the region and the world.

It is difficult NOT to say nice things about a man whose vision – yes, that’s what it is – and entrepreneurial daring helped give birth to a business that has accounted for so much change in tiny Macau.

The signs of Ho’s presence are just about everywhere. Steve Wynn, Sheldon and, yes, MGM are among the most recent big arrivals in Macau, but Stanley’s casinos still outnumber those of everyone else. If it weren’t for the sub-concession that came to MGM through the Ho holdings managed by Pansy, MGM would still be talking to its Chinese customers from Las Vegas.

The classified report from the Division of Gaming Enforcement generally argues that an ability to create a torrent of revenue is not necessarily synonymous with the qualities that add up to a licensable reputation in New Jersey. I’m told that the DGE work product will remain classified until such time that it is unveiled during a still-to-be-scheduled hearing before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

Oh, well. One man’s rascal is another man’s visionary.

There is probably something to be made of the fact that the strategists behind this award did not paint it as a Hall of Fame induction, the kind of ceremony occurring annually in Las Vegas as part of the G2E celebration there.

It’s not the first time this matter of dueling perceptions has served to cast the same person in two different roles. Remember Clifford Perlman? The former Caesars World chairman – another visionary if there ever was one – was declared persona non grata in the New Jersey casino industry way back in the early 1980s as his company was striving to get a license for its Caesars on the Boardwalk.

The result: Perlman was eventually forced to exit Atlantic City and return to Las Vegas where he made an unsuccessful effort to buy the late Dunes, but that’s another story for another day.

Flash forward more than a quarter century to 2007 and Perlman was being inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame during the previously mentioned Las Vegas trade show.

And I suppose the late "Mo" Dalitz received his share of Man of the Year-type recognition as he was leading the spurt of creativity that covered a lot of land and years in Las Vegas. Gaming regulators did their best to ignore Mo’s presence as his casinos created thousands of jobs and made a number of people wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

As for Mr. Ho, he has definitely been a businessman with a good eye for the big picture of gaming industry growth. Macau would not have evolved into the money machine that it has become without his presence.

That’s a big part of what being a visionary is all about, to see what can be done and to set about doing it, turning the status quo on its head to see what happens.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Phil Hevener