Las Vegas Sands willing to go all in for Japan casino project

Business News & Views - February 25th, 2014

Las Vegas Sands Corp has joined the ranks of global casino operators beating down the door to Japan’s tightly regulated gambling market.

Sheldon Adelson, chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, said his company was willing to bet “whatever it takes” to set up a casino project in Japan, one of the largest untapped gaming markets in the world.

“Would I put in $10 billion? Yes,” Adelson said at a media briefing during an investor seminar in Tokyo. “Would I rather do it at 7? Yes.”

Las Vegas Sands is seen as a strong candidate in the fierce competition to win a license in Japan. US-based MGM Resorts International, Malaysia’s Genting Bhd and Macau casino venture Melco Crown Entertainment are also bidding for Japan’s casino industry.

Japanese slot machine and game makers Sega Sammy Holdings and Konami Corp and broadcaster Fuji Media Holdings are among domestic companies vying for a spot.

When asked if he would take on Japanese firms as equity partners, Adelson said he “wouldn’t be that happy” but he did not rule out the prospect.

“These people can’t keep up. But I’m not ruling it out. I’m keeping my mind open to see whether or not a fair and reasonable partnership deal can be worked out,” Adelson said, lauding his company’s industry-leading market capitalization of $66 billion.

Japanese lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted an initial promotional bill to legalize casinos in a bid to open up what is estimated to be the world’s second-largest gaming market.

Broker CLSA estimates Japan could generate $40 billion in gaming revenues a year, assuming two large integrated resorts are set up in Tokyo and Osaka and 10 smaller sites across the country such as the northern island of Hokkaido and Okinawa.

That would make Japan Asia’s second-largest gambling market after Macau, which the brokerage said is set to rake in $51 billion this year.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Daniel Kulinski/Flickr