Las Vegas Sands’ US$12 billion lawsuit begins hearing; witnesses describe the firm’s “rich experience” as a competitive edge in gaming tender

The hearing of a high-stake lawsuit between Sands China’s parent company, Las Vegas Sands (LVS), and Taiwanese tycoon Marshall Hao Shi-sheng – chairman of Asian American Entertainment Corporation – opened on Wednesday at the Macau Base Court. (Allin photo)

The hearing of a high-stake lawsuit between Sands China’s parent company, Las Vegas Sands (LVS), and Taiwanese tycoon Marshall Hao Shi-sheng – chairman of Asian American Entertainment Corporation – opened on Wednesday at the Macau Base Court. Officials from the former Macau Gaming Committee, which was responsible for the public bidding of casino licences at the time, appeared in court to testify and told the court that LVS’s “rich experience in gaming and tourism” gave it a competitive edge over other rivals in the public tender.

Marshall Hao alleges in the lawsuit that LVS breached its agreement with Asian American Entertainment on jointly bidding for one of Macau’s casino licences back in 2001. He claimed that LVS terminated its joint venture with Asian American Entertainment and then submitted a near identical copy of its previous submission with new partner Galaxy Entertainment. The LVS-Galaxy combination went on to win a licence.

The Taiwanese businessman is seeking damages of around 70% of LVS’s Macau profits from 2004 to 2022, which amounts to some MOP 96 billion (US$12 billion).

On the first day of hearing, leading members of the former Macau Gaming Committee took the witness stand.

Maria Nazaré Saias Portela, member of the Committee and head of the legal affairs department of the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau, told the court that although the proposal submitted by the LVS-Galaxy consortium was “similar” to the one previously submitted by LVS and Asian American Entertainment, the Committee at that time mainly took into account the relevant expertise of LVS and believed that the firm could help spur the growth of Macau’s gaming industry and raise Macau’s international profile as a whole. She added that any firm that partnered with LVS was “very likely” to win one of the casino licences in 2002.

Eric Ho Hou Yin, who was secretary of the Committee and former deputy director of the Financial Affairs Bureau, echoed Portela’s remarks. Ho told the court that the Committee was impressed by LVS’s expertise in resort management and MICE, which gave the firm a leg up in the race.

Both witnesses confirmed the Committee was aware at the time that Asian American Entertainment had formed “a type of partnership” with LVS, which later severed the ties. But the timeline of the fallout was disputed in court. The Committee was only aware that the two firms had parted ways after receiving a letter dated 1 February 2002 from LVS, according to the two witnesses.

The letter indicated that LVS would work with Galaxy in the bidding process from that moment onwards, as the intent of cooperation between LVS and Asian American Entertainment expired on 15 January 2002, the court was told.

The trial hearing continued on Thursday, and will resume next Wednesday.