Sands opens Macau casino, eyes $35 billion Spain complex

Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:31am EDT
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By Farah Master

MACAU (Reuters) - U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson said he plans to spend $35 billion on a mini-Las Vegas strip in Spain, where he is courting the country's two top urban areas, Barcelona and Madrid, with plans for a casino complex.

Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp, later presided over the opening of his new casino property in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, the world's largest casino destination, where he is expected to increase market share considerably over the next 12 months.

"We are looking at 12 integrated resorts, 3,000 rooms each. A mini Las Vegas, about half the size of the Las Vegas strip in Spain for the European market," said Adelson, clad in a dark suit and sporting a matching red chequered tie and handkerchief, speaking on Wednesday ahead of the Macau opening.

Each building would cost between $2.5 billion and $3 billion and target customers from western and eastern Europe.

Adelson did not address the debt crisis that has gripped Europe, although he has said the Spanish complex would be a five to 10-year project, by which time he expected demand to have picked up significantly.

Some analysts still see the success of the Spanish venture as dependent on tax breaks which Adelson is reported to be seeking.

"While we typically favor investments in Asia given the ultra-high appetite to gamble, we would be positive on investments in places like Spain provided the government subsidized the investment through a low gaming tax," said Aaron Fischer, head of consumer and gaming at CLSA Asia Pacific Markets in Hong Kong.

"The post-tax operating margin would then be high enough to support the high upfront capital investment resulting in a reasonable return on invested capital," Fischer said.   Continued...

A view of the casino inside the Sands Cotai Central, Sands' newest integrated resort in Macau April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu