Regulatory dispute stemmed from connections to Chinese gambling kingpin
MGM Resorts International, which gave up its ties to Atlantic City’s casino market nearly three years ago to settle a dispute with New Jersey gaming regulators, is seeking to regain a piece of the action.
The Las Vegas casino giant, which still owns 50 percent of Atlantic City’s market-leading Borgata, petitioned the New Jersey Casino Control Commission on Monday to reinstate the company’s gaming license in Atlantic City.
In a statement, MGM Resorts officials said the company “would welcome the opportunity to once again be an active, contributing member of the New Jersey gaming marketplace.”
MGM Resorts placed its Borgata ownership in trust in 2010 following settlement of a complaint filed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The agency said MGM Resorts’ joint-venture partner in Macau, Hong Kong businesswoman Pansy Ho, was unsuitable because international law enforcement alleged casinos controlled by her father, billionaire Stanley Ho, were influenced by Chinese organized-crime triads.
Casino Control Commission Chairman Matthew Levinson said in a statement Monday that the panel will review MGM Resorts’ request at meeting Wednesday.
“If the amendment is approved, MGM indicated it will promptly file for a statement of compliance,” Levinson said.
MGM Resorts has been unable to find a buyer for its Borgata stake. Boyd Gaming Corp. owns the other 50 percent of the Borgata and operates the hotel-casino.
After the settlement was reached in 2010, MGM Resorts sold several vacant land parcels in Atlantic City.
In its petition, MGM Resorts said the company has taken a 51 percent controlling interest in MGM Macau’s parent company, MGM China Holdings, from Pansy Ho, who is now a minority holder with 27.4 percent of the business.
MGM China Holdings is now listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Also, MGM Resorts said Stanley Ho, who is 91 years old, has seen his health decline in the past three years and he has divested much of his business interests. Pansy Ho is now the controlling shareholder in one of Stanley Ho’s largest businesses.
MGM Resorts also said Stanley Ho has sued Pansy Ho and other family members over various business disputes, “further suggesting that the risk of Stanley Ho being in position to improperly influence Pansy Ho is no longer an issue.”
Gaming regulators in Nevada and Mississippi found MGM Resorts’ relationship with Pansy Ho suitable in 2007, but New Jersey gaming investigators said in the lengthy report that she was influenced too heavily by her father.
The request comes roughly six weeks before MGM Resorts hits a deadline concerning its Borgata stake. The company has until March 24 to direct a trustee overseeing its half-ownership in the Borgata to sell it. After that, the trustee would be responsible for lining up a buyer.
Several observers said on condition of anonymity that MGM Resorts would like to regain its Atlantic City gaming license because the 2010 settlement has been used against the company by competitors in emerging gaming markets.
MGM Resorts is bidding on potential casino licenses in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Toronto. Last fall, opponents of casino expansion measure Question 7 in Maryland paid to mail the New Jersey investigative report to voters throughout the state. MGM Resorts supported passage of Question 7.
“MGM Resorts International is, and always has been, committed to the highest standards of operation and regulatory compliance,” the company said in its statement.
Shares of MGM Resorts closed Monday at $13.05 on the New York Stock Exchange, down 46 cents, or 3.4 percent. Shares of Boyd Gaming closed at $7.48 on the New York Stock Exchange, down 29 cents, or 3.73 percent.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.
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