Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | 8:09 a.m.
MACAU — A top MGM Mirage executive said Wednesday the gambling giant would challenge a recent U.S. regulatory report calling Pansy Ho, daughter of a famous Macau kingpin, an "unsuitable" business partner for its casino in the Chinese city.
MGM Mirage revealed last month that gambling law enforcement in New Jersey recommended the company cut ties with Ho because of her father Stanley Ho's alleged links to organized crime.
Ho and MGM jointly own the MGM Grand Macau casino resort.
"We disagree with their recommendation," Lloyd Nathan, MGM Mirage's president for global gaming development, said on the sidelines of a gambling conference in Macau. "Pansy Ho has been and is a great partner in Macau."
The report from New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement, while nonbinding, could influence the state's main casino commission in any possible hearing on the matter.
"We would then go before that hearing and make our opposition clear," Nathan said.
Pansy Ho said any response to the report would be left to MGM.
A final ruling against MGM could force the Las Vegas-based casino giant to choose between abandoning the lucrative gambling market of Macau or walking away from its investment in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it owns half the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the city's highest grossing casino.
Ho has been cleared elsewhere. In Nevada, regulators qualified her to be associated with American casino companies in 2007 after hearings in which she said she operates independently of her father, who also runs casinos in Macau.
Considered the father of Macau's modern gambling industry, Stanley Ho presided over the city's casinos for four decades until his monopoly was broken up in 2002 after the Portuguese colony's return to China.
Today, he competes against several casino operators — including his daughter's partnership with MGM and another run by his son — though his company, SJM Holdings, still leads with nearly 30 percent of the local gambling market.
Speaking at Wednesday's conference, Stanley Ho seemed to allude to speculation about him.
"The fact that SJM is listed on a major stock market has provided a new level of transparency of gaming in Macau and helped to clear up the misconceptions about the industry that some people had in the past," he said.