Mon, Jul 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

US casinos play Russian roulette in Macau

Pulling in four times as much annual revenue as Las Vegas and Atlantic City combined, Macau is the world’s undisputed gambling hub, but with big profits comes big risks in the form of organized crime and corruption

By Hannah Dreier  /  AP, LAS VEGAS, Nevada

“You ask people who Sheldon Adelson is, if 10 out of 50 recognize the name, I’d be surprised. If they associated him with the Venetian and the Palazzo, I’d be even more surprised. People are busy,” he said.

Of course, within the industry, Adelson is an object of fascination. As the Sands chief executive appeared in court this spring, a former rival, Phil Satre, who headed Harrah’s Entertainment, followed the coverage from his home in Reno, another city in Nevada. Harrah’s, the US’ largest casinos company when Satre stepped down in the early 2000s, was later renamed Caesars Entertainment Corporation.

While Wynn, MGM and Sands have taken off, Caesars, the industry’s fourth major player, has been left behind. Caesars did not apply for the finite number of gambling licenses in Macau in the early 2000s for fear of upsetting domestic regulators.

At that time, the US gambling industry had at last gained a legitimacy and mundane familiarity that had been unthinkable a generation ago, Satre said. He said he did not think US regulators would tolerate any hint of ties to criminal activity in Asia.

“There are some things that still have to play out, but when I look back and think about the opportunity to go back in Macau, I’d probably take a different posture,” Satre said.

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