Las Vegas Sands

Sands willing to bet US$10b on Japanese casino market

Gaming giants are opening their wallets in preparation for legalised casinos in Japan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 1:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 5:22am

Las Vegas Sands, the world's largest gambling company by market value, says it is ready to invest US$10 billion in Japan, projected to be Asia's second- largest casino market.

"We will spend whatever it takes," Sands' billionaire chairman and chief executive Sheldon Adelson said in Tokyo. "We could pay all cash. We don't have to, but we will borrow money in a typical mortgage-to-value ratio."

Sands was opening offices and hiring in Japan, Adelson said. The company would also consider working with a local partner, he said, without elaborating or naming any companies.

While betting on horse, boat and bicycle races is allowed in the world's third-largest economy, casinos are currently banned. Its potential as a gambling market has drawn the interest of Sands, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts. After a decade of discussions by politicians, Tokyo's selection to host the 2020 Olympics Games has boosted confidence that a law legalising casinos will be passed.

Union Gaming Group estimates a Japanese casino market will generate US$10 billion in annual revenue, making it Asia's second biggest, after Macau, which reaped US$45.2 billion in casino gaming revenue last year.

Adelson said the company was still interested in building resorts in both Tokyo and Osaka and would not consider smaller locations such as Okinawa because they would not draw as much convention business as the big cities.

Sands invested in Macau casinos more than 10 years ago and has since become the largest foreign operator in the city.

Macau accounted for 61 per cent of Sands' adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation last year, with almost 30 per cent from its one casino in Singapore and the remainder from the US.

MGM Resorts president Bill Hornbuckle said last year the company would invest "several" billion dollars once the Japanese market opened up. Wynn's investment in a Japanese casino would be "way bigger" than the US$4 billion it is spending on its current project on Macau's Cotai strip, its development chief operating officer Gamal Aziz said last year.

Both companies have said they plan to find local partners to develop casino projects.

Among the potential partners are trading companies such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Itochu and gaming machine makers Sega Sammy and Konami. The trading companies have project-finance experience and real estate development connections, while the game makers have helped develop casino projects and technology outside of Japan.