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Macau press says MGM Mirage
to partner with Stanley Ho

Feb 10, 2004 6:08 AM

Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho would never have been accused of offering his customers plush facilities during a 42-year gaming monopoly, but that may end in the near future.

Ho, granted one of the three licenses to build and operate casinos in the Chinese enclave, reportedly will soon announce a partnership with MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGG) to build a $550 million Las Vegas style casino. The property will compete with casinos to be operated by Las Vegans Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, who were the other two successful bidders for Macau licenses.

According to a report in the "Ponto Final" newspaper, the joint venture agreement between MGM MIRAGE and Ho’s Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM) involved negotiations by Ho’s daughter, and apparent successor, Pansy Ho, and representatives of the Las Vegas company. Ho currently operates a dozen casinos that have been described as seedy, at best.

Under the Macau gaming regulation, each successful bidder can operate more than one casino under what was described as a "casino-operating sub-concession." That will be the method used by Pansy Ho to form a joint venture using Ho’s Hong Kong-based Shun Tak Holdings. The casino, to be located on a new land-reclamation area in Macau’s Outer Harbor, will be completely separate from the casinos operated by the 82-year-old Ho and his company, SJM.

Fueling the rumor was the announcement on Monday that Macau" Executive Council has passed a bill that would permit casino operators to grant gaming credit to players. Formerly prohibited by law, the gaming credit practice is common in Las Vegas and was given as a reason for Steve Wynn’s delaying the construction of his new Macau casino. Reportedly that will now go forward this summer.

Getting ready to open within the next few months are the two casinos constructed by Adelson and his partner, Galaxy Casino and Resort Company. The Galaxy company won the initial bid for a license and is permitting The Venetian to build and operate a casino under the sub-concession rule with a partnership arrangement.

The entry of MGM MIRAGE into the Macau market places the three major Las Vegas casino operators in the middle of an area that many analysts have described as having the biggest potential for gaming anywhere in the world.

Wall Street was so impressed with the change in credit regulations in Macau that they bid up the stock of Wynn Resorts Inc. (WYNN) by $2.46 to $35.26 in Monday’s action. The number of shares traded amounted to more than 1.25 million when on an ordinary day the number of shares would not exceed 400,000.

THE INSIDER: Chris Hemmeter, the Hawaii real estate developer whose two casino ventures in New Orleans resulted in financial disaster, is being remembered for his efforts. The New Orleans city council is proposing renaming River Heritage Park in his name. Hemmeter conceived the idea for what is now Harrah’s New Orleans Casino.

A bidding war is developing for a casino license in St. Louis County, Mo. Outbid by rival Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK), Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) has increased its bid to about $300 million from the original $180 million. Pinnacle’s bid was $300 million.

The recognition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs has resulted in a call for a Congressional investigation by Congresswoman Nancy Johnson of Connecticut. A number of state and federal officials fear that recognition of the tribe will result in another casino to join the existing Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort.

Several gaming companies have announced the dates to report earnings for the fourth quarter. They include: Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 6 a.m. PST; (UBET), Thursday, Feb. 12, 2 p.m. PST; Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) Friday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 a.m. PST; The Sands Regent (SNDS) on Friday, Feb. 13, at 10 a.m. PST; Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA) on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. PST, and Shuffle Master (SHFL) on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m. PST.

New Jersey is on the verge of approving as many as 15 off-track betting parlors that would compete with the Atlantic City casinos that operate race books. If final approval is given the parlors could be in operation by the end of this calendar year.

A Reno inventor is suing Aristocrat Leisure Ltd and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. over the use of "Hyperlink" to link slot machines for jackpot payoffs. Lawrence Torango alleges the system infringes on his patent.

Ground has been broken on the new Hard Rock Café and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

GTECH Holdings Corp. (GTK) says it will move the operations of Interlott Technologies Inc., a company it acquired last year, from its headquarters in Mason, Ohio, to GTECH’ s home base in Rhode Island.

Shuffle Master says it has sold certain of its remaining slot assets to International Game Technologies (IGT), substantially completing its disposition of its slot products.

Alliance Gaming Corp. (AGI) has received final approval from Nevada gaming regulators to complete its arrangement to acquired privately held Sierra Design Group for $191 million.

The Indiana House has approved the installation of electronic slot-like gambling machines at the state’s two horse tracks and two off-track betting parlors.