Stanley Ho-controlled SJM Holdings Limited (HKG:0880) and Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd (HKG:0102), controlled by son Lawrence, may be looking to add the Crimean gaming zone to their substantial investment portfolios, according to, a privately-owned Russian website, citing a source in Russian-Chinese business circles, reports Asia Gaming Brief.

The source said, “When it was clear that Crimea became part of Russia and the authorities intended to set up a gaming zone there, the interest in it has increased,” according to the report. The source added that the companies belonging to the Ho’s had been eyeing the peninsula in Eastern Europe as a possible investment opportunity prior to the illegal 2014 Russian annexation, however, due to high geopolitical risks; failed to pursue negotiations with the Ukrainians.

The news agency’s request for comment did not receive a response from either SJM Holdings or Summit Ascent Holdings, and the former’s affiliate, Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., headed by Lawrence Ho and his Australian billionaire partner James Packer, declined to comment. Neither Crimea’s Finance Ministry nor the peninsula authorities were able to provide further information regarding the status of negotiations between them and the two investment holding companies.

Meanwhile, the procedure for the issuance, renewal, and revocation of operating permits in the gambling zone are intended to be approved by the Crimean Finance Ministry in December this year. And according to an announcement by state-owned media in August, construction is slated to begin next year in the Crimea gambling zone which the government approved for gambling in June.

An investment in Primorye, another gaming zone in Russia’s far east, has already been made by Summit Ascent Holdings in partnership with Melco International Development. However, the companies’ investment in the Crimean zone may amount to $1 billion versus a possible $2 billion investment in the Primorye zone, due to the former’s location in relation to China and its lesser tourist draw , said the source, according to the news agency.