Las Vegas Sands Hopes to Find Аllies as It Fights $12-billion Lawsuit in Macau

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The case pitting Las Vegas Sands (LVS) against a former business partner is finally getting underway in a Macau courtroom. Marshall Hao, a Taiwanese businessman behind Asian American Entertainment Corporation (AAEC), is suing the casino operator over what he asserts is a breach of contract linked to LVS’s entry into the Macau gaming industry. It’s a dispute that has been going back and forth for over 15 years and was initially begun with a demand for restitution in the amount of $375 million. That figure now stands at $12 billion, but AAEC shouldn’t get too excited yet. The lawsuit was initially filed in Nevada, where LVS is headquartered, but was ultimately thrown out by a judge.

LVS Pleads Innocent In Macau Dealings

AAEC and LVS have had to wait to plead their cases before a judge in Macau because of COVID-19 and other issues, but the suit was finally greenlighted and put on the docket. Hao presented his lawsuit to the courts in the city in 2012, and is just now getting started. Hao alleges that he helped LVS get its foot in the door in the then-nascent gambling market that was emerging in Macau and, just before a casino license was issued, the operator decided to go with Galaxy Entertainment Group, instead. He initially wanted $35 million for breach of contract, and that figure has grown to its current $12-billion mark as LVS continues to enjoy success in the Asian market. The businessman believes he is entitled to 70% of LVS’s profits in Macau since 2002.

Outcome of the Case Uncertain

Hao had attempted to convince a Nevada judge that he was in the right, suing LVS there in 2007. The case was thrown out three years later over a “procedural issue,” which is to say that it wasn’t dismissed for not having merit. Now, as Macau’s Second Civil Court listens to arguments, Hao has been able to use the past 14 years to fine-tune his lawsuit and correct any deficiencies. What comes next isn’t clear, but LVS recognizes that it may not find the courts on its side this time around. The company said in 2019, “management has determined that based on proceedings to date, it is currently unable to determine the probability of the outcome of this matter or the range of reasonably possible loss, if any.”

That doesn’t mean that LVS expects to lose, however. It still asserts that it did nothing wrong and didn’t violate any contract with AAEC. The company has also been able to use the past 14 years to hone its defense and will continue to fight the allegations. As the case has unraveled, it has become apparent that the court, and Macau’s leadership, put a lot of stock in what LVS offers the city. The final decision will come down to whether there was a definitive, solidly-worded contract between LVS and AAEC, and whether it was broken. If the court determines that this happened, LVS will be held accountable for restitution, but not for the entire amount that AAEC expects to receive. There’s no indication on when a decision might be reached in the case.  

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