News that Macau casino veteran Stanley Ho is sniffing around a possible second NSW casino licence shows the Iemma Government hasn’t done its homework.

The front page story in the Sydney Morning Herald suggested that Ho was angling for the inside running. But it’s clear the paper had not done any checking on Ho, otherwise it would have come across this story from late 2006 in the rival paper, The Australian and specifically these interesting paragraphs:

Stanley Ho, who held the monopoly on Macau’s casino industry until the Government opened up the market in 2002, has been the subject of allegations that he has links to Asian organised crime, prompting a probity investigation by US gaming authorities into a proposed casino development in Macau between MGM and Stanley Ho’s daughter Pansy.

Gaming authorities in Victoria and Western Australian finally gave their approval for PBL’s proposal to link up with Melco in September after a two-year investigation.

Their decision came after Stanley Ho stepped down as chairman of Melco and the move by PBL and Melco to spend $1.2 billion buying their own Macau casino licence rather than relying on operating in casinos licensed by companies associated with Stanley Ho.”

However, the further reduction of Stanley Ho’s links with Melco must also be seen as a plus for PBL, given concerns by some gaming regulators about allegations surrounding the connections of Ho senior.

Perhaps the NSW Government should have contacted the gaming regulators in Victoria and Western Australia to discuss with them their reservations about Mr Ho, especially the Victorian one which issued this media release a year ago.

During the course of our investigation, Dr Ho resigned as Chair of Melco, and the Joint Venture arrangements changed such that PBL/Melco will operate its casino businesses under the sub-concession acquired and controlled by PBL, instead of under Dr Ho’s SJM concession as originally intended. This leaves Dr Ho with no role in the joint venture. Furthermore our investigations have satisfied the VCGR that Dr Ho is not in a position to exert any influence with respect to this venture.

It would be handy to ask why Mr Ho’s possible association with Melco worried the Victorian regulator.

Instead of talking to Mr Ho, Mr Iemma should have had his staff background Mr Ho and find out why the Victorians had effectively banned him, and why James Packer and Ho’s son were willing to ditch daddy at Melco.

The briefing from the Victorian regulator should override the $48,000 contribution to Mr Iemma’s Government and the Premier from Mr Ho, as claimed in the SMH story.

Peter Fray

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