Macau’s Olympic Controversy

The Las Vegas Sands landed a lucrative Chinese agreement to build two resorts in Macau, but the negotiations may have included a convoluted political relationship that resulted in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Los Angeles Times recently detailed testimony in a lawsuit by Richard Suen, a Hong Kong middleman who took credit for introducing U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson – chairman of Las Vegas Sands – to Chinese officials when Adelson was bidding to change Macau into a gaming mecca.

Suen claimed he never saw a dime from the arrangement, and the jury ruled in his favor, awarding him $43.8 million. But during the course of the trial, testimony revealed political associations between Adelson and Washington, D.C., that may have had a direct influence on China getting the Olympics despite political opposition, the Times reported.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, was returned to China in 1999 and Chinese officials proceeded to attempt to revive the prostitution- and crime-ridden province.

Adelson and Sands president William Weidner went to Beijing in 2001 to offer his vision of Macau as "the Las Vegas of the East," Weidner reportedly testified.

The result was the Sands Macau, opened in 2004, and the Venetian Macau, opened last year. The properties have generated $4 billion in casino revenue, the Times said.

At the time of the negotiations, the U.S. House of Representatives had a congressional resolution opposing the Beijing Olympic bid on its agenda. Adelson, who has contributed heavily to the Republican Party, was in China when he called then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) at a Fourth of July barbecue. A few days later, the resolution disappeared from the House agenda, according to the Times.

According to Weidner’s testimony, DeLay – known as "The Hammer" for his ability to influence legislation – told Adelson he supported the resolution but would confer with his fellow GOP House leaders.

DeLay called back three hours later to say there was a logjam and, according to Weidner, said, "You tell your [Chinese official], it can be assured that this bill will never see the light of day."

The International Olympic Committee eventually awarded the 2008 Summer Games to China.

No evidence was presented at the trial that the delay in the resolution was a direct effort to help Adelson, the Times reported.