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Macau Mogul Takes Punt On Russian Casino Project

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Macau gambling magnate Lawrence Ho is set to extend his global reach after two of his companies entered into an agreement to build a casino resort in a Russian entertainment zone that is a short flight away for cash-rich Chinese gamblers.

Ho, who owns Melco Crown Entertainment along with Australian billionaire James Packer, owns casinos in the world's largest gambling destination Macau and is building a casino resort in the Philippines.

Melco International Development and Summit Ascent Holdings, both owned by Ho, will together acquire a 51 percent stake in a Russian casino resort near the port city of Vladivostok which is a 2-1/2 hour flight from Beijing and close to three northeastern Chinese provinces.

Some foreign casino operators have taken a more cautious view about investing in the Valdivostok gambling and entertainment zone due to regulatory concerns.

Vladivostok, better known for its oil and gas pipelines, will also face competition from the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea, which are setting up similar tourism and entertainment zones to lure Asian gamblers, in particular cashed-up Chinese.

The total investment cost of the Russian project is expected to be USD$130 million, compared to USD$1 billion for Melco Crown's new casino complex in Manila. Both of Ho's companies will commit capital together with Russian partner Oleg Drozdov, a local real estate businessman.

Ho is the son of Macau casino kingpin Stanley Ho. Both his Philippines and Russian casino resorts are expected to open next year.

(Reuters)

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