This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Hong Kong’s Richest 2022. See the full list here.
Hong Kong’s casino moguls saw a turn in fortunes as Macau pulled back from making drastic changes to laws controlling the world’s largest gambling hub by revenue, ending years of uncertainty in the sector. Locally listed casino stocks surged in January after the government unveiled draft legislation that maintained the current number of casino licenses ahead of renewal deadlines in June.
Macau also dropped proposals to increase the gaming tax, restrict dividends and appoint casino monitors from the China-backed measures aimed at diversifying the city’s economy beyond casinos. “The government’s stance on some contentious topics has become far less onerous, if not surprisingly accommodative,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note following the announcement.
Still, the rebound is nowhere close to undoing the market rout that began when the pandemic struck in early 2020, causing visitor numbers to plunge. Lui Che Woo, chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group, and his family saw their net worth fall 28% to $12.8 billion. MGM China co-chair Pansy Ho—among the most prominent of late Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho’s 17 children from four wives—saw her wealth drop 17% to $3.4 billion.
Angela Leong, Ho’s fourth wife and SJM Holdings’ largest individual shareholder, witnessed a 12% drop to $2.9 billion. Pansy’s younger brother Lawrence Ho, who controls Melco Resorts through Hong Kong-listed Melco International Development, saw his fortune tumble 37% to $1.25 billion. All declined to comment.
Macau’s casinos still face a long road to recovery. Gaming revenue rose 43% to $10.8 billion last year—barely a third of pre-pandemic levels ($36.5 billion in 2019). Even when travel curbs are fully lifted, high rollers from mainland China, who accounted for about half of Macau’s pre-pandemic gaming revenue, are unlikely to return in force amid a government crackdown on illegal cross-border gambling.
In late January, Macau police arrested Chan Weng Lin, head of casino group Macau Legend Development and junket operator Tak Chun Group, for alleged money laundering. It comes on the heels of the high-profile arrest of Alvin Chau, founder of Suncity Group, which closed all of its VIP gambling rooms in the city in December. Chan and Chau couldn’t be reached for comment.
Property development has been seen as a safe bet by the casino tycoons, even as they align themselves with China’s plan to transform the former Portuguese colony into a leisure and tourism hub. Galaxy’s Lui also heads Hong Kong-listed property developer K. Wah International Holdings alongside his daughter Paddy and son Alexander, while his eldest son, Francis, oversees Galaxy. In pledging to back the regulatory overhaul, Liu noted it accords “top priority” to China and Macau’s security and seeks to promote “Macau’s economic diversification and sustainable development.”
Meanwhile Pansy Ho’s Shun Tak Holdings in December reportedly withdrew from a S$557 million ($414 million) deal to buy a prime residential site near Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt after the government introduced property cooling measures there. It would have been the group’s fifth investment in one of the world’s most expensive property markets. Shun Tak didn’t respond to a request for comment.