Gambling queen Pansy Ho primes business empire for a new Macau
By Farah Master
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Pansy Ho, Hong Kong's richest woman and the daughter of Macau gambling godfather Stanley Ho, is lining up her chips for a new era in the world's casino capital that promises much more than gambling.
Born into a family that developed a flourishing gambling culture in the southern Chinese territory more than 50 years ago, Ho is now a key player spearheading a move to diversify Macau into an arts, culture and entertainment hub, and away from the gaudy casino halls which raked in $38 billion last year.
Co-chair of U.S. casino MGM China and managing director of property to transport conglomerate Shun Tak, Ho is positioning her sprawling business empire to capitalize on Macau's new generation of growth, boosted by the influx of affluent Chinese holiday makers.
"Macau has become an entirely different destination," the petite 50-year-old said in an interview at one of her several offices in Hong Kong's financial district, adamant that the world's casino capital can't rely just on gaming to fuel growth.
About a third the size of Manhattan, Macau is the only place in China where casinos are allowed, and it relies on casino taxes for more than 80 percent of its revenue. Beijing, which can control visitor numbers entering the former Portuguese colony, has made Macau's transformation into a global tourism destination part of its current 5-year plan.
"This is exactly where my job leads me in the future," said Ho, with neatly cropped black hair and dressed in a maroon collared blouse. Apart from her business interests, Ho sits on several political committees in China and the Macau government's tourism development committee.
Art galleries, music festivals, cultural shows and theatre are some of the initiatives Ho plans to bring to Macau. She is also positioning Shun Tak in hotel management, aviation and property, further expanding the family business's extensive footprint in the Pearl River Delta.
BIG CHANGES Continued...