Stanley Ho

'I haven't taken a single pataca'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2006, 12:00am

US casino boss fights back after Stanley Ho's criticism - and the kitchen is about to get hotter

American billionaire and Macau casino operator Sheldon Adelson says he has not taken 'a single pataca' out of Macau, in response to an accusation by rival mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun last week that Americans had taken money away from the city.

In the latest round in a verbal joust with Mr Ho that began a fortnight ago, the US gaming magnate also shrugged off what could be perceived as claims that his competitive American approach to business had hurt Macau and could displease Beijing.

'We are practising peaceful competition. It's just not the monopolistic practices he [Mr Ho] has been used to,' Mr Adelson said. 'Not only have we not taken money out, we are bringing more money in. We were only supposed to invest US$550 million but we are investing US$10 billion.'

Mr Ho's complaints over the past two weeks have been directed against everything from Mr Adelson's Sands Macau casino, for supposedly taking away his business by raising agents' commissions, to the Macau government, for allegedly favouring his US competitors. The complaints herald what is expected to be a new level of competition when American Steve Wynn opens his first resort on Wednesday.

It will be in direct competition with Mr Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau and Mr Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp, which operates the Sands Macau casino and will run the Venetian Macau Resort.

Mr Adelson was initially coy about continuing the debate with his rival in the media, but went on to say he believed Mr Ho had difficulty coping with competition after enjoying a monopoly in the Macau gaming sector for 42 years.

'He was the biggest fish in this little pond. Now there have been some other big fish introduced into this little pond.

'He doesn't like it. He wants to eat all the little fish by himself,' he said.

Mr Ho's office did not return calls for comment.

Mr Adelson ruled out Mr Ho's call to set up a gaming industry chamber to regulate stakeholders, but said he was open to suggestions about forming an association through which the industry could lobby for common interests.

He said the Las Vegas Sands could run foul of US anti-trust laws and lose its gaming licence in Nevada if it joined an organisation aimed at fixing commissions and the prices of hotel rooms.

Mr Adelson said Beijing was unlikely to intervene in commercial disputes.

'This is a former monopolist who is unhappy that he's got competition. So he wants to say, 'I am gong to rattle the sabre called Beijing and the central government, and you guys should cower and fall down in fright',' Mr Adelson said. He understood his rival's desire to keep his monopoly.

Mr Adelson thinks Mr Ho is 'charming' on a personal level, although he admits he has met his rival briefly on only three occasions.

Last week, responding to Mr Ho's complaints, Mr Adelson quipped in Macau during a topping-off ceremony for his casino that 'if you can't take the heat, then get out of the kitchen'. Mr Adelson said the remark was not meant to be derogatory.

Mr Ho has since replied that not only does he intend to stay in the kitchen, but will offer complimentary meals to visitors to his casino.

Mr Adelson said his only regret since opening the Sands 21/2 years ago had been that he 'could not put [his resorts and casinos] up faster'.

Asked about last month's murder of Chao Yeuk-hong, one of Mr Ho's VIP lounge operators, and her husband, Lam Pou-sang, he said he believed Macau and Beijing had the issue of violence in check.




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