James Packer now has access to well over $5 billion in play money to further his ambitions in gambling after the NASDAQ listing of the Melco joint venture company, owned with Lawrence Ho of Macau.

Melco PBL Entertainment (Macau) raised more than $US1.14 billion with its US initial public offering.

That’s $1.46 billion Australian dollars which, when added to the $4 billion or more raised by the sale of 50% of PBL Media to CVC, means he and his partners will be able to mount some significant deals, if they want to.

US brokers said the final offer of 60.25 million American Depositary Receipts (each ADR equals three shares in Melco PBL), was increased from 53 million ADRs indicating the strong interest in gambling stocks. The offer price was $US19 per share compared to a forecast range of $US16 to $US18.

Packer and Melco have already missed out on the second Casino licence in Singapore and the money raised this week was to help finance that.

Melco International and PBL formed the joint venture last year to cash in on Asian gaming, entertainment and hospitality potential.

Subsidiary Melco PBL Gaming (Macau) Limited bought a gaming subconcession from Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn for $US900 (almost $A1.1 billion) to become one of only six companies authorised by the Macau government to operate casinos in the Chinese territory.

Meanwhile reports from Britain say that a much smaller casino project is about to start for the joint venture between PBL and the Aspinall group in Swansea in Wales.

“As Swansea aims to make itself a hotspot for gamblers, work has begun on its seven million pound casino. The casino is due to open next year and is a joint venture between the UK’s gaming giant, the Aspinall Group, and James Packer’s Australian leisure and entertainment group, Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd.”

James Packer held the interest in the JV privately but sold it into PBL in exchange for shares in a deal OKed by the PBL AGM a couple of months ago.

Peter Fray

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