TYCOON Stanley Ho has admitted defeat in his fight to stop casino ships operating out of Hongkong, confessing: ''There is nothing more I can do.'' In a rare interview, Mr Ho told the Sunday Morning Post that after five years trying to prevent the ships from using the territory as a base, he now ''can only wait patiently for something to be done - I have done all I can''. Mr Ho, who has seen the ships erode hundreds of millions of dollars from the turnover of his Macau casino monopoly, made his surprise comments after what he said were repeated appeals to the Hongkong, Macau and Chinese governments to act against the vessels taking hundreds of gamblers on overnight cruises on the South China Sea, where gambling starts once they leave Hongkong waters. Mr Ho said four ships - New Orient Princess, Queen of Jin Jiang, Delfin Star and Southern Kingdom - were at present based in the territory. Others were likely to start or resume their voyages, he claimed - although a Marine Department spokesman said only two were currently sailing. The tycoon said the ships were shaving ''two to three per cent'' off the turnover from his casinos; and with revenue close to $11.4 billion that could be as much as $340 million a year. Touts were luring big gamblers from the tables of his casinos to casino ships, Mr Ho claimed. ''I cannot keep these people out; the casinos are public places. They start talking to my customers and try to get them on to the ships.'' The touts were offering ''illegal incentives'' to potential customers, he alleged, including subsidising their losses to encourage them to return. ''It is hurting me - not very much - although it is very irritating. These people do not put anything back into any government; they are paying no taxes.'' Mr Ho strongly denied allegations that Chinese officials had an interest in the ships: ''Maybe there are mainland businessmen involved, but this is nothing to do with the Chinese Government.'' Last year the mayor of Zhuhai despatched a patrol boat to warn one casino ship against anchoring overnight in waters off the Chinese city after an appeal from Mr Ho. ''The ships used to sail to the west of Hongkong to gamble; now they go to the east, to the area around Daya Bay, as a result of the action taken by the mayor,'' the tycoon said. A source in Macau disagreed with Mr Ho's claims, saying: ''Clearly the people running the cruises have Chinese permission - or at least unofficial approval. ''It must be at a fairly high provincial level too, because otherwise the Public Security Bureau would be sending ships to board, stop or seize them. This has to have been cleared by the Chinese.'' The source believed the Chinese were hoping to turn an island in the Pearl River Delta into a gambling resort and that Mr Ho was trying to preserve his influence as the strongest player in the region's gambling industry. At least two of the ships - the New Orient Princess and the Delfin Star - are awaiting dry dock inspections of their hulls by the Marine Department. They have already passed detailed inspections allowing them to operate with valid safety certificates issued by the department. Although gambling is illegal in Hongkong, and despite repeated pledges of action to close the casino-ships loophole since 1988, the Government has yet to act. Draft legislation, however, has been drawn up. ''I have waited five years for them to do something,'' Mr Ho said. ''Will I have to wait another five before something is done? ''They do nothing to benefit Hongkong; if they did I would have nothing to say. ''It is so easy to stop them; all you have to do is say that no ship can carry gaming equipment unless it has a destination. I have no problem with the Queen Elizabeth II running a casino, because it passes through Hongkong and the casino is closed when it is in port.'' He said he had no plans to launch his own floating casino to counter the other ships as he did in 1990. ''I put a former ferry, the Macmosa, into service but it was too small to work properly. The casino ships these days are luxurious boats and large - I really could not compete.''