Billionaire Lawrence Ho Says Australian Probe Will Only Help Melco Resorts in Japan

Posted on: June 6, 2019, 09:09h. 

Last updated on: June 6, 2019, 09:09h.

Melco Resorts CEO Lawrence Ho is being investigated by financial and securities regulators in Australia, but that’s just fine by the billionaire casino tycoon.

Lawrence Ho Melco Resorts Japan
Lawrence Ho says investigators in Australia won’t find any ties to criminal Chinese syndicates, which will only help boost his organization’s qualification for Japan. (Image: Asia Gaming Brief)

Ho, 43, reached an agreement late last month with fellow billionaire and former business partner James Packer to acquire a nearly 20 percent stake in Aussie casino empire Crown Resorts. But authorities Down Under say the transaction won’t be completed swiftly, as the deal has sparked an investigation into Ho’s family and its alleged ties to the 14K and Sun Yee On triad societies in China.

While most businesspersons wouldn’t welcome such accusations, Ho says the probe will only help better his reputation, which subsequently increases Melco’s odds of winning licensure in Japan. Melco – along with nearly every other major casino operator in the world – is hoping to gain entry in the Land of the Rising Sun when it formally authorizes three commercial integrated casino resorts.

Building Reputations

Ho’s father Stanley Ho maintained a monopoly on casinos in Macau for decades until 2002 when the enclave expanded the gaming industry upon return from Portugal to China. The powerful family has long denied any links to triads.

What’s a Triad?

Triads typically refer to organized crime syndicates based in China, but are located throughout Asia. The Oxford English Dictionary says “triad” is a translation of the Chinese term “San Ho Hui,” which means Triple Union Society.

Triads tend to originate in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, and are often engaged in various crimes including fraud, extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, counterfeit goods, and prostitution.

Ho took questions this week regarding Melco’s investment in Crown. And he responded to inquiries regarding the ongoing investigation into his alleged triad ties.

We are always happy to go through the regulatory process,” the billionaire said. “I think if anything, if you look at our track record of developing our global footprint overseas, we always prefer jurisdictions where there is a strong governance and strong regulatory regime which is why we’ve shied away from some of the other smaller Asian countries where their regulatory regime wasn’t as developed.”

“Again, it will further demonstrate to Japan that we are a global player that is not afraid of compliance and probity reviews,” Ho concluded.

Melco Expansion

Macau remains the world’s richest gambling hub, with the six licensed casino operators there winning more than $37.8 billion on their gaming floors last year. But Ho’s Melco is diversifying its investments and expanding to new markets.

The company is already invested in the Philippines by way of its City of Dreams Manila resort. Melco is currently building a City of Dreams in Cyprus at a cost of $617 million that’s slated to open in 2021.

Melco is committed to winning one of the coveted casino licenses in Japan, and the company’s attempt to acquire a substantial stake in Crown Resorts would expand the company to Australia.

Melco was partnered with Crown until 2017 when the two entities separated. The move came after numerous Crown employees were arrested in China and charged on allegations of committing “gambling-related crimes.”