Neil Gough takes an eye-in-the-sky view of the growing casino trade
HK businessman sues Sands' chief for massive finder's fee
Las Vegas Sands Corp and its billionaire chairman and majority shareholder Sheldon Adelson are two weeks into a jury trial in Las Vegas' Clark County District Court, defending themselves from a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by a Hong Kong businessman.
The developer of the Venetian and Sands casino hotels in Macau is being sued by Richard Suen of Hong Kong-incorporated Round Square Company, who filed a lawsuit in 2004 alleging he is owed millions of dollars and a percentage of subsequent Macau profits for his 2001 efforts to help the Las Vegas firm win a gaming licence in the enclave.
Las Vegas Sands executives have given testimony confirming that extended negotiations with Mr Suen took place, but have said that no concrete agreement was reached. Mr Suen, who was introduced to the firm by Mr Adelson's brother Leonard 'Lenny' Adelson, helped arrange meetings between Las Vegas Sands executives and mainland government officials including former vice-premier Qian Qichen .
Mr Adelson's chief lieutenant, William Weidner, testified that Mr Suen urged the company to invest in a hi-tech park and a convention centre in Beijing to curry favour with the central government, according to Las Vegas media.
But he was unable to help secure a meeting with Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah, which the company instead arranged through an unnamed Hong Kong businesswoman who was a friend of Mr Adelson.
Mr Adelson - whose two Macau casinos have helped make him the 12th richest man in the world as ranked by Forbes - said on the stand that he probably would not have dealt with Mr Suen had it not been for his brother Lenny's encouragement.
'My brother was constantly calling me, almost on a daily basis, saying Richard is a great guy,' the Las Vegas Sun quoted him as saying. 'I caved in to my brother. Even a strong guy gives in once in a while.'
Still, the 74-year-old Mr Adelson said that due to personal medical problems, the company's dealings with Mr Suen had been spearheaded by Mr Weidner.
Mr Adelson was angry with his lieutenant for conducting some negotiations without his knowledge.
'It's not a crime punishable by death,' he said. 'Maybe [Mr Weidner should have been] smacked by a bunch of wet noodles ... but I still love him and have a lot of respect for him.'
The trial, one of two cases filed in Clark county seeking finder's fees for helping Mr Adelson and Las Vegas Sands secure its Macau gaming licence, continues next week. Watch this space.
Casino to be 'half open' in future for improved security
The open-floor plan of the casino at the Venetian Macau again came under attack last week by Macau legislator Angela Leong On-kei, who also happens to be the fourth wife of gaming magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
Traditionally, casino lobbies in Macau have been physically distanced from the main gaming floors by doors, escalators, designated hallways or other barriers, where a security checkpoint is installed.
The Venetian, of course, also features security checkpoints at each of its multiple casino entrances, which are usually cordoned off from other areas by velvet ropes. But rivals say the massive corridors connecting the gaming floor to other areas of the resort are not restrictive enough.
In response to the concerns, Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah said last week that the 'open casino' was only an experiment and would soon be changed to 'half open', according to the Macao Daily News. We're not quite sure what 'half open' might entail, but it's not likely to affect the average Macau punter's keenly developed sense of how to find his or her way into a casino.
New but misleading take on gaming restrictions
The gaming industry has been at pains to decipher the tea leaves following the Macau government's announcement last week of new restrictions on casino development. But at least one company is looking on the bright side. New York-based Kenilworth Systems - the developer of a remote-gambling system called Roulabette - issued a chirpy press release this week with a unique take on the new restrictions.
'The Macau government and China are signalling a changing pattern in gambling - the introduction and acceptance of remote internet casino gambling, as patented by Kenilworth for its Roulabette system.'
For the record, mainland law bans all forms of gambling apart from two government-run lotteries. Macau law makes no provision for online casinos, but allows for limited internet betting on racing and sports betting under monopolies controlled by Stanley Ho Hung-sun's firms.