Galaxy Entertainment would not have won one of Macau’s casino licences in 2002 had it not formed a partnership with US gaming giant Las Vegas Sands (LVS), according to Manuel Joaquim das Neves, former director of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
The former head of the gaming watchdog made the comment as he testified on Thursday (17 June) on the second day of court hearing of a high-stake lawsuit between LVS and Taiwanese tycoon Marshall Hao Shi-sheng – chairman of Asian American Entertainment Corporation (AAE). Marshall Hao, who claimed that LVS terminated its joint venture with AAE for the bidding of Macau’s casinos licences in 2001 and then submitted a near identical copy of its previous submission with new partner Galaxy Entertainment, is seeking damages of around 70% of LVS’s Macau profits from 2004 to 2022.
Mr Neves, who took the witness stand as member of the former Macau Gaming Committee, also told the court that all bidding proposals received by the Committee were evaluated in the most objective manner possible with a strict marking scheme, adding that all the bids were reviewed in light of the public interest.
Two other members of the Committee, Maria Nazaré Saias Portela and Eric Ho Hou Yin, testified yesterday that any party partnering with LVS would have a competitive edge over other rivals in the public tender two decades ago and would very likely win a licence.
When asked to comment on the same issue, Mr Neves did not respond directly but agreed that Galaxy would not have won a licence had it not partnered with LVS, which was seen as having rich experience in resort management and MICE.
Besides the criteria for winning a casino licence, the timeline of when the partnership between LVS and AAE officially ended was heatedly debated in court on Thursday.
The Committee had two rounds of face-to-face consultation with bidders before announcing the winners in February 2002. Only nine bidders were selected for the second round of consultation; Galaxy was not invited for the second round as it had not partnered with LVS at the time, while AAE was among the invited, the court has heard.
When Mr Neves was asked by lawyer Jorge Menezes, who represents AAE in the case, whether he could recall his meeting with both LVS and AAE in January 2001, he said he could not remember as it took place two decades ago.
Francis Tam, then Secretary for Economy and Finance and also a member of the Gaming Committee, submitted a written testimony for the case.
The court had heard from four members of the Gaming Committee so far. The case’s hearing will continue next Wednesday (23 June).
The LVS vs AAE lawsuit was first launched in the US in 2007 but was later dismissed due to statute of limitations and procedural reasons; it was brought before the Macau courts in 2012.