Sands In Japan?

At an investor seminar in Tokyo last week, Las Vegas Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson was asked if he would pay $10 billion to set up a casino in Japan. He said he would.  

Photo: AP Photo
Meeting with Madrid officials at the site of the new EuroVegas casino project.

“Whatever it takes. Would I rather do it at 7? Yes.”

The New York Times reports that LVS is one of the main candidates for a casino license should the Japanese government legalize gambling.

The company’s very successful Singapore resort is one of the projects that Japanese lawmakers are using as a yardstick.

Nevertheless, the competition is tough. MGM Resorts International, Genting of Malaysia and Melco Crown Entertainment of Macau are also pushing hard for a license to operate in Japan. Insiders estimate that the country could generate $40 billion in annual revenues in casino gambling.

That scenario envisions two resort complexes in Tokyo and Osaka and 10 smaller casinos throughout the country, including one in Okinawa.

The $40 billion estimate would make Japan the second-biggest gambling market in the world, after Macau’s $51 billion yearly take.

Japanese companies are eager to have gambling legalized, but Adelson told reporters he isn’t interested in any equity partners.

“These people can’t keep up,” he said. “But I’m not ruling it out.”

Las Vegas Sands is capitalized at $66 billion, so the company wouldn’t need anyone to help with an initial investment.

Adelson’s cool opinion of Japanese expertise in the field was echoed by at least one local expert.

An influential economist who goes by the pen name Gucci last week wrote in his weekly column in the newsmagazine Aera that Japan will not be able to run casinos on its own because no one in the country has the kind of experience necessary.

In any case, any openings are still years away. Parliament will likely vote to legalize casinos in May, but then it will have to formulate regulations and those probably won’t be approved until 2016 at the earliest.

Proponents of the bills hope to have casinos up and running by the time the Tokyo Olympics starts in 2020.