consortium backed by tycoon Lawrence Ho Yau Lung has agreed to increase its stake in a casino project near the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok to 85 percent, the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper says the Russian partner, Oleg Drozdov, who holds 30 percent, will sell half his stake to Summit Ascent Holdings and Taiwan-listed maker of electronic gaming machines Firich Enterprises Co for US$ 21.7 million.
Russian investigators looking into suspected business malpractices unconnected with the casino project have detained Drozdov.Mr. Ho is co-chairman of Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment.
The funds will also be used for general working capital.The company announced plans yesterday to raise its stake in the casino to 60% from a previous 46%.
The project is north of China’s Heilongjiang Province, and the investment is expected to give Summit Ascent an early-mover advantage in an eastern Russian market full of promise since Russia eased rules on casino investments in 2009.
Active gambling by mainland Chinese has helped Macau to overtake Las Vegas as the world’s biggest casino hub. Melco International’s Melco Crown Entertainment is a venture with Australian billionaire James Packer and has casino-resort projects in Macau and Manila. Ho is the son of Macau gambling industry legend Stanley Ho.