Saturday, February 10, 2007

Macau Casino king plans to strike back at American Gaming Moguls

HONG KONG - Asian billionaire Stanley Ho will open a new casino in Macau on Sunday in an effort to strike back at American gaming moguls who invaded the Chinese territory after Ho's four-decade monopoly was broken up four years ago.

Ho's new HK$3 billion (US$384 million; euro295 million) Grand Lisboa Hotel _ a gold tower with 430 rooms and a top that looks like a giant lotus flower _ may also help Macau hold its new title as the world's casino capital.

Macau apparently edged out the Las Vegas Strip in revenue in 2006, raking in US$6.95 billion. The Las Vegas Strip's US$6.69 billion was a record, but not enough to stay ahead of Macau _ the only place in China with legalized casino gambling.

The 85-year-old Ho is ranked 84th on Forbes' 100 richest people in the world. He controlled all the casinos in Macau until his monopoly ended in 2002 and Las Vegas casino titans Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. began building gleaming casinos and resort complexes.

The brash Americans have lured away many of Ho's customers with flashy gaming halls, snappy service, fine cuisine, designer boutiques and other Las Vegas touches.

A JPMorgan forecast said Ho's share of the market will dwindle until it holds just one-fourth by 2009.

Ho, who has 17 casinos, has complained that the Americans have been poaching his staff and stealing away customers from his VIP halls _ special rooms for high rollers who are the biggest source of revenue for Macau casinos.

Some of the sniping and trash talking erupted in public a few months ago in Macau, a peninsula and two islands on China's southeastern coast.

William Weidner, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., told reporters that Ho was being a crybaby and warned him that in the next few years, Macau's market would become even more "brutally competitive.''

"We live everyday on the Las Vegas strip, where you can look out your window and see your competitor across the street and there aren't three competitors. There are 30 competitors,'' Weidner said.

Sands executives also told Ho to stay out of the kitchen if he couldn't take the heat. Ho shot back, "Not only won't I stay out of the kitchen, but I will also cook a barbecue pork rice set.''

Sunday's casino opening might be a good sign of whether Ho's cooking is still good enough

Source : STAR
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