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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 07:49 GMT
Packer moves into Macau gambling
Kerry Packer
Mr Packer is also eyeing possible mainland opportunities
Australian media boss Kerry Packer is moving into the Chinese gambling haven of Macau by sinking $163m (88m) investment in a casino joint venture.

Mr Packer, famous for enjoying a flutter, is partnering with Hong Kong gambling tycoon Stanley Ho.

The deal gives Mr Packer's firm, PBL, a 28% stake in the Park Hyatt hotel, which will not be finished until 2007.

The deal could give Mr Packer a ticket to the mainland if the government lifts the current ban on casinos.

PBL's arrangement with Melco, Mr Ho's group, gives the Hong Kong company the better end of a 60-40 share of any operations in mainland China.

The deal is reversed for developments elsewhere in Asia, including Australia and New Zealand.

High stakes

Macau is developing into one of the Pacific's main gambling hotspots, a magnet for the region's many prolific players with $4.4bn (2.4bn) in revenue in 2003.

The territory of some 450,000 people was handed back to China by Portugal in 1999, and has since been relaxing its gaming laws.

Till recently, Mr Ho's casino properties there - kept separate from Melco - held a monopoly.

Now there are three rival groups running 14 casinos, and five more, including the Park Hyatt, are scheduled to open within five years.

By then, the number of hotel rooms on the islands will have grown fivefold.

Australian no-frills carrier Virgin Blue is in talks with both Air Macau and another Stanley Ho firm, Shun Tak Holdings, about starting an airline on the island.

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