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09 March 2010

Australia's Crown Management Tight Lipped On Macau Dreams, by Greg Tingle - 9th March 2010

Crown management has remains tight-lipped regarding a potential disposal of the casino group's interest in Melco Crown Entertainment, a 32 per cent owned Macau joint venture.

Thus far Media Man and Gambling911 are getting a "nonsense" reply back from the powers that be at Crown.

The matter was again raised at the company's half-year results briefing and was shrugged off. We reckon Mr Packer may be bluffing, perhaps something he crafted up on from former Media Man client, Keith "Bendigo" Sloan (poker trainer and events organiser).

Melco Crown's earnings have been in a slump, falling 90 per cent to $US2.7 million ($A3 million) in the December quarter, however earlier indicators are they are bouncing back, following the Melbourne based Crown Casino and Perth's Burswood Entertainment Complex.

Plans for a number 3 Macau casino have been scrapped and speculation builds that a significant capital injection will be required to keep the bankers at bay.

With all things considered, Crown Melco remains in a better position that most land based casino operators. Land based casino operator licences in Macau are as rare as hen's teeth, and U.S casino and gaming monster Harrah's is on the prowl for a physical presence in the region. Harrah's MD Gary Loveman acknowledged that Macau is a "big omission in our portfolio, and we would like to solve it."

Harrah's Entertainment interest in Crown's Macau interests shot up numerous months ago when an analyst report noted that legal eagle's hacking for Macau's chief executive, Fernando Chui Sai On, had been requested to examine "a potential transfer of ownership" of shares from Crown to Harrah's Entertainment!

Mr Loveman refused to be drawn on the status of discussions with Melco or Crown as of time of publication, noting only that "We are well acquainted with the principals of that company and have been for quite some time."

The late mail... Macau gambling and property billionaire king, Mr Stanley Ho, long time friend and associate to Australia's Packer family, has been released from hospital after 7 months in hospital for unspecified surgery.

Mr Ho is understood to be doing well. Daughter Pansy Ho told the press gathering "He just woke up from a nap. I don't want him to be too stimulated". The news on Mr Ho's release is expected to see gains for Macau in the property, investor and shares sector. The good news dice just keeps flowing for Macau, where many a journalist last year was referring to the Macau region as a City Of Nightmares, not Dreams!

*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling 911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company

*The writer owns shares in Crown Casino

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