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Casino-tycoon Ho Launches Grand Lisboa
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Billionaire gambling tycoon Stanley Ho celebrated the long-awaited opening yesterday of his Grand Lisboa casino - a gleaming gold complex that is Ho's biggest response to American rivals who have stormed into Macau and seized big chunks of the gaming market.


Ho unveiled his latest casino - shaped like a giant lotus flower - just days after it was announced that Macau edged out the Las Vegas Strip as the world's most lucrative gambling center.


The 85-year-old Ho, who has 17 casinos in Macau, enjoyed a four-decade monopoly on gambling here until the government in 2002 opened up the market. Ho now competes with American casino titans like Sheldon Adelson, Stephen Wynn and MGM Mirage Inc.


Ho's casinos have a reputation for being smoky, worn-out gambling dens with grumpy service. Industry experts will be looking closely at the HK$3 billion (US$384 million) Grand Lisboa - whose opening was delayed for weeks - for signs that this is a new start for Ho.


The tycoon acknowledged yesterday that his market share has slipped from 100 percent during the monopoly years to 63 percent in 2006. But he said 63 percent was "really good" considering the increased competition.


Ho has accused the Americans of unfair competition, like poaching his staff and stealing away customers. He complained again yesterday but declined to name names.


"So far, the competition, except for a few cases, has been fair and I'm satisfied," he said.


The 52-story Grand Lisboa hotel casino has a sparkly round base - a design inspired by Faberge eggs, Ho's company said. The tower is shaped like the long plumes from a Brazilian showgirl's headdress, the company said.


The casino features five floors with more than 240 tables and 484 slot machines. The first floor is smoke free - an obvious appeal to his smoke-sensitive critics.


The 430-room hotel is scheduled to open later this year. Its lobby will sparkle with 580,000 Swarovski crystals, gold plated leaves and crystal balls, said the company.


(Shanghai Daily February 12, 2007)



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