Lawrence Ho wants his name to be up there with Adelson and Wynn, but shuns allure of Vegas

  • Japan expected to rule on casino licenses in June 2018
  • Melco to compete with global brands Wynn, Las Vegas Sands

The CEO and chairman of casino giant Melco Resorts & Entertainment has been talking business ahead of next year’s planned expansion into the Japanese market, revealing how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his gambling magnate father.

Melco chairman Lawrence Ho has put plenty of resource behind the Macau disaster effort, including an undisclosed personal donation.
Melco chairman Lawrence Ho wants to make a name for himself – but Asia is the key to success, he believes. Picture: Melco Resorts & Entertainment.

Lawrence Ho also shared his vision for the future of Melco with the South China Morning Post, revealing how the company is expanding into hospitality and entertainment as it seeks to become Asia’s strongest brand in that sector.

CEO sees big opportunities in Asia

Ho inherited his casino empire from his father’s business after Stanley Ho Hung-sun retired in 2009, and the young entrepreneur has transformed the traditional Macau casino brand into a network of entertainment and hospitality venues. Today the 40-year-old is worth $2.6 billion, reports Forbes, while Melco itself has a market value of $34.1 billion.

In May 2017, Bloomberg highlighted Melco stocks as the best on the casino market with a 117% year-on-year rise, and the company’s integrated resort venues contribute heavily to Macau’s annual revenue.

Unlike many operators, Melco does not have a US presence.

Instead, the casino brand has pursued expansion into the Phillippines, Russia, Cyprus and Hong Kong, as well as previously teaming with Australian operators Crown Resorts until this year.

“We had many opportunities go into Las Vegas,” Ho told reporters, explaining why he opted against entering the US market.

“The greatest development opportunities for years to come will be in Asia.”

Japanese casino license battle opens soon

Japan recently moved to legalize casino gambling, but it will only offer a small number of licenses to foreign operators.

This will put some of the world’s largest casino chains in direct competition, with many bids already submitted and under consideration. A decision is expected by June 2018.

Melco is one of the companies bidding for a license, and chairman Lawrence Ho sees a chance for his casino brand to firmly establish itself as the leader of the Asian market.

Japan currently receives around 20 million visitors per year, states Ho, which is less than Macau and half that of Hong Kong – suggesting that where gambling is available, visitors will arrive. Japan is the third largest economy in the world, so it presents a real opportunity for the right operator.

Ho wants to be that lucky operator.

“In our industry, there are so many legends,” the young businessman stated.

“My father, Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, they all created something.”

In competing for a Japanese license, Ho is pitting himself against some of those business idols. Wynn Resorts, MGM International and Las Vegas Sands have all announced their intention to make a play for the Japanese market.

By June 2018, the uncertainty will end and the successful operators will be known. If Melco can secure a license, it could help cement Ho junior’s ambitions for the entertainment brand.

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