Macau casino scion rolls dice on Japan venture

Macau casino scion rolls dice on Japan venture

HONG KONG – Agence France-Presse
Macau casino scion rolls dice on Japan venture

Casino magnate Lawrence Ho -- son of Macau gaming legend Stanley Ho -- is eyeing a major foray into Japan as he seeks to broaden his family’s reach beyond the world’s biggest gambling hub.

His father was credited with transforming Macau from a sleepy Portuguese outpost to a gaming boomtown boasting revenues surpassing Las Vegas.

With its myriad shimmering palaces to fortune and fantasy, the city is the only part of China where casino gambling is legal and has become a favorite haunt of mainland high rollers.

But the younger Ho, whose casino-to-resorts firm Melco International rivals his father’s gaming empire, is keen to strike out beyond familiar family turf, with plans for a major investment in Japan’s untapped casino market.

The 40-year-old, with a net worth put at $2.6 billion by Forbes earlier this year, has already broadened the firm’s international footprint, with casino resorts ventures in the Philippines and Russia.

He is now squaring up to crack into Japan’s gaming industry after strict bars on casinos were lifted last year.
“Nothing will hold me back there,” he told AFP.

Japan already has an appetite for other forms of gambling, including horse and boat racing and pachinko, a slot machine-style game that is played in thousands of smoky parlors and is a huge revenue generator.

Fears over gambling addiction and organized crime were swept aside as the country passed a controversial bill to legalize casinos in 2016, a move seen likely to ignite the gaming market in the world’s third biggest economy.

Ho promised an ambitious pitch for the coveted casino license.

He has already sought to diversify his Macau offerings in recent years as the industry came under pressure from a slowdown in the Chinese economy and a corruption crackdown by Chinese President Xi Jinping that curbed high spenders.

Operators scrambled to bolster their mass market appeal to offset a dramatic drop in revenues from the VIP sector.

Ho’s Studio City built the world’s first and highest figure-of-eight ferris wheel and launched with a star-studded fanfare in 2015 featuring actors Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.