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Las Vegas Sands sees Japan relationship as asset for possible casino license

Updated July 25, 2018 - 8:18 pm

Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson said Wednesday that his decadeslong ties to Japan give his company a leg up in the fierce battle for a casino license in the wealthy Asian nation.

“Everybody says — local Japanese, business people, banks — we have the leading position in Japan because of my background,” Adelson told Wall Street analysts during the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

Japan could become one of the world’s largest gaming regions after the nation’s parliament passed a law Friday allowing for the creation of three casinos as part of integrated resorts. Analysts estimate annual gaming revenue in Japan could reach at high as $21 billion by the middle of next decade.

Immediately following the passage of the law, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts Ltd., MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. said they will seek a license to operate there.

When asked about the Las Vegas-based company’s chances to win a license, Adelson reminded the analysts he used to produce the Comdex trade show in Japan. He later sold it to Japanese company Softbank Corp. for $800 million.

Adelson also said the governor of Chiba city near Tokyo visited him in Boston in the 1980s to discuss the design of the Makuhari Messe convention center.

During the earnings call, Adelson also touted the success of the company’s integrated resort in Singapore as a “powerful reference site for emerging jurisdictions considering large scale integrated resort developments,” a thinly veiled pitch to Japanese authorities.

Japan is set to become the second-largest Asian market after Macau, which continues to drive growth for Las Vegas-based casino operators.

Sands’ reported second-quarter net income rose 5.8 percent to $676 million, driven by growing visitation to the Chinese gaming enclave.

Adelson said occupancy at the company’s Macau properties rose to an average of 94 percent in the second quarter, tying a record high.

Company executives said the growth in Macau is driven by an increase in gamblers who are more affluent than the average visitor.

Many of these “mass premium” visitors are coming from beyond the Chinese provinces of Hong Kong and Guangdong and staying longer, Adelson and Chief Operating Officer Robert Goldstein said during the call.

Non-Guangdong visitation rose 17 percent over the past year compared with 12 percent growth in total Chinese visitors, according to government data.

“We’re extremely confident that we found the key to growing our business not just this year but beyond,” Goldstein said. “We feel very bullish.”

The company is now pumping money into Macau to upgrade rooms to attract ”mass premium” guests, the executives said. The Venetian Macao completed its upgrade at the beginning of the year, while renovations are ongoing at the Parisian Macao.

“We will continue to make significant investments in Macau because we have a long-term and unwavering commitment to this market,” Adelson said.

Shares of Las Vegas Sands slid after the company announced second-quarter net income that missed Wall Street forecasts. The company reported earnings per share of 70 cents, while analysts had forecast it would earn 80 cents per share.

Sands shares fell $2.37, or 3.2 percent, to $72.75 in after-hours trading.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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