Great Gamble

Macanese casino heiress explains why the smart money is on arts and culture



Pansy Ho Chiu-king might have inherited the mantle of her gambling tycoon father Stanley Ho Hung-sun, but don’t expect her to be content with running the baccarat tables. She has set her sights on greater things.

The junior Ho, 54, is turning the world’s most lucrative gambling mecca into an arts, culture and entertainment center. In recent years, she has spent much time ensuring that her plan will come to fruition.

“I asked my secretaries yesterday if they have spotted something missing on my itinerary,” she said about her daily schedule filled with back-to- back appointments. “They didn’t have a clue. It turned out no one has noticed my itinerary left no time for lunch.”

The introduction of art exhibitions at MGM Macau, a five-star hotel resort which Ho co-owns with American MGM Resorts International under MGM China Holdings, was a start. In December, she sponsored the first international film festival held in Macau.

Born into a family with 17 children, Ho is the most prominent heiress to her 95-year-old father’s business empire that stretches from gambling to aviation, banking, entertainment, real estate, shipping, and tourism.

While she is not involved in SJM Holdings, through which Stanley Ho operates more than half of Macau’s casinos, she sits on a number of political, economic and tourism committees in China and Macau.

And apart from being co-chair and executive director of MGM China Holdings, she is managing director of Shun Tak Holdings. She is also an independent non-executive director of Sing Tao News Corporation, which owns The Standard.

In a sense, promoting arts and cultural programs sits well with the Ho family’s business interests in Macau. But Hong Kong’s second richest woman, whose estimated net worth stands at US$4.3 billion (HK$33.54 billion), said her connection with the silver screen runs deeper than that.

“Actually, the MGM label has always been a supporter of the creative industry. It went back to [its hotels and casinos in] Las Vegas, and the legendary Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in California, where many films were produced,” she said.

“MGM China has inherited this tradition and supported the shooting of Look For A Star, Finding Mr Right 2, and Skiptrace at the resort.”

Ho added that films are a good way to introduce the different faces of Macau to an international audience. And local production crews can gain valuable experience by working with overseas practitioners.

Before Macau’s first international film festival, MGM China has helped host a public seminar with award- winning female film director Xue Xiaolu. Ho believes the Macanese are not the only ones who stand to benefit from the road to economic diversification.

“We sponsored Macau’s first international film festival. It was a mega arts and entertainment event. It brought the world to Macau, and at the same time, Macau became more integrated with the world,” she said.

“MGM China will continue to support activities that will help develop Macau into a world-class tourism destination. We will also spare no effort in promoting the sustainable development of the local creative industry.”

Ho’s interest in the entertainment industry is partly personal.

Before becoming the career woman that she is today, she had a brief acting career, appearing in a music video of deceased Cantopop singer Danny Chan Pak-keung.

And she enjoys going to the cinema. “I find the experience relaxing,” she said. “Through films, you get to know the landscapes and cultures of different countries.

“The Asian cinema is more varied than it was in terms of subject matter and genre. A number of Asian films have successfully entered the international market. Some have even won awards.

“Many big-budget international productions have chosen to shoot or be set in Asia. It proves that Asian cinema is playing an important role worldwide.”

MGM China will host arts events again during Le French May. It will also open a second integrated resort, MGM Cotai, in the second half of the year.

The HK$24 billion resort, designed like a jewelry box, will provide approximately 1,400 hotel rooms and suites. An ultra-luxurious accommodation concept, conceived by MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas, will be introduced for the first time.

Another highlight is a theater equipped with the most advanced digital technologies, such as a 180-degree backdrop and LED walls capable of reproducing 4K content.

The article first appeared in the Standard on February 3, 2017.

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