Sands to spend ‘whatever it takes’ for Japan casino

Reuters and Bloomberg, TOKYO

Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - Page 15

Las Vegas Sands chief executive Sheldon Adelson yesterday said his company was willing to spend “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 US$10 billion? Yes,” Adelson said at a media briefing during an investor seminar in Tokyo. “Would I rather do it at seven? Yes.”

Las Vegas Sands is considered a strong candidate to win a license in Japan, should the country open its market to casino gambling, in large part due to the success of its resort in Singapore which has served as a model for Japanese lawmakers.

Japan is widely considered Asia’s largest market for gambling after Macau, the world’s biggest gaming hub.

Industry analysts predict Japan could rake in US$15 billion in annual gaming revenues, making it the second-biggest market globally.

However, with every major global operator targeting Japan, competition is sure to be fierce.

US-based MGM Resorts International, Malaysia’s Genting Bhd and Macau-based Melco Crown Entertainment are among those also pushing hard for a crack at the market.

An group of lawmakers submitted an initial promotional bill to parliament in December last year to legalize gambling, with expectations that it will be debated in May.

If that passes, the proposal will go into a second bill with concrete regulations, which proponents hope can be passed in 2016.

If this two-step legislation process goes smoothly, casino backers say the first resort could be opened in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Adelson reiterated the company is still interested in building resorts in both Tokyo and Osaka, and would not consider smaller locations such as Okinawa because they would not draw as much convention business as the big cities.

Adelson said he wants to partner with risk takers and would consider working with Masayoshi Son, founder and president of SoftBank Corp.

Hiroe Kotera, a spokeswoman for the wireless carrier, said she could not immediately comment on Adelson’s remarks.

Among the potential partners for casino operators are trading companies such as Mitsui & Co, Mitsubishi Corp and Itochu Corp, and gaming machine makers Seg Sammy Holdings Inc and Konami Corp.

The trading companies have project-finance experience and real-estate development connections, while the game makers have helped develop casino projects and technology outside of Japan.