The Venetian Macao

High rollers poised for the ultimate high

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am

High rollers, fasten your seat belts: the world's first sky casinos are preparing for takeoff.

Las Vegas Sands Corp, the US and Macau casino developer controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, plans to launch VIP charter flights between Hong Kong and Las Vegas featuring onboard baccarat tables.

The company recently acquired and is refitting two secondhand Lockheed Martin L-1011 Tristar widebody planes to accommodate about 200 punters, a US press report and people familiar with the matter said.

The aircraft are being overhauled to offer lounge-style seating and amenities including gambling tables for high rollers seeking more interactive ways to pass the time during the 14-hour transpacific flight.

Sands executives have been keeping quiet about the plan. 'We don't want to give our competitors the road map to success,' Mr Adelson said last week in an investors' conference call.

But the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Saturday quoted a letter from the gaming company's lawyer to Nevada regulators.

The letter stated: 'In a nutshell, we plan to offer patrons travelling to or from The Venetian [in Las Vegas] from Hong Kong the opportunity to play table games only and on credit only with no cash play on an L-1011 outfitted with table games and a surveillance booth and digital surveillance equipment while the aircraft is in international airspace over international waters.'

Several European airlines have experimented with inflight gambling, offering video-based games on their personal entertainment screens.

But the proposed Las Vegas Sands charter flights - covering about 11,000km - are believed to be the first time traditional casino tables would take to the skies.

Las Vegas Sands' 'sky casinos' would be exempt from Hong Kong laws against gambling and taxes on casino revenues provided the activity takes place in airspace over international waters.