Sands throws towel in on Japan resort fight

Sheldon Adelson pulls Las Vegas Sands out of bid to build integrated resort in Yokohama dealing blow to Japan’s efforts to drive visitor economy

ATTEMPTS by Japan’s leaders to widen the country’s tourism and business event choices have been dealt a setback with Las Vegas Sands withdrawing its bid to develop an integrated resort with gaming licences.

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, declared this week that the casino and hotel giant will pull out of the race to gain permits for a “MICE-based” integrated resort development in Yokohama modelled on Sands properties in the US, Macau and Singapore.

Sands has been pursuing a casino project in Japan since 2005, according to reports, as local governments sought to relax gambling laws. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supported integrated resort developments to diversify revenue streams and attract convention groups.

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Efforts by the likes of Sands, Hong Kong-based Melco, Galaxy and other operators to develop resorts have hit hurdles as lawmakers imposed restrictions, particularly following the arrest of a politician over corruption charges related to casino investment.

Bloomberg reported that the Yokohama project was worth US$10 billion but Sands faced a concession lasting only 10 years with the deal subject to local or national authority changes.

“My fondness for the Japanese culture and admiration for the country’s strength as a tourism destination goes back more than 30 years to the days when I was operating COMDEX shows in Japan and I’ve always wanted our company to have a development opportunity there,” said Adelson.

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“And while my positive feelings for Japan are undiminished, and I believe the country would benefit from the business and leisure tourism generated by an Integrated Resort, the framework around the development of an IR has made our goals there unreachable.

“We are grateful for all of the friendships we have formed and the strong relationships we have in Japan, but it is time for our company to focus our energy on other opportunities.

“I remain extremely bullish about the future of our company and its growth prospects. We operate best-in-class properties in the leading markets in our industry and we are currently executing significant investment programs in both Macau and Singapore to create meaningful new growth from our existing portfolio.

“We also believe the success of the MICE-based Integrated Resort model we pioneered in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore will ultimately be considered by other Asian countries, particularly as governments look to increase leisure and business tourism as a driver of economic growth.”

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