Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) is being sued in China for about $380 million over the way it won a gaming license in Macau, marking the latest lawsuit in what has become an extremely competitive Asian casino market.
Asian American Entertainment, controlled by Taiwanese-American businessman Shi Sheng Hao, is suing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands for 3 billion Macau Patacas.
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He claims Sands and its subsidiary Sands China breached its contract by going behind its back to team up with another company to bid for the license.
The two had teamed up in 2001 to operate a Venetian-style resort in Macau, leading Hao to sign a letter of intent with the company to bid for a license. However, he claims Sands later signed a letter of intent with a different company, Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment, and submitted a proposal for a very similar Venetian resort without telling him.
In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, Sands said the claim against the company’s Venetian Macao resort is “meritless” and will “vigorously defend the matter in court,” noting the claim relates to events that occurred before the resort was incorporated in June 2002.
The suit follows an earlier one filed in Nevada that had been dismissed.
The fight to control the gambling scene in Macau, which is the only place where gambling is legal in China, has heated up over the last few years. Macau raked in $33.5 billion in revenue last year from 34 casinos.
This battle follows another nasty one between casino tycoon Steven Wynn of Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) and former partner Kazuo Okada. The friends-turned-enemies have criticized the way they each handled deals in Asia where they are seeking separate casino approvals.
That fight has similarly led to lawsuits, but it also influenced Okada’s ousting from the Wynn board and the sale of his shares at a steep 30% discount.