Las Vegas Sands given reprieve in $12-billion lawsuit

Now is certainly not the time that Las Vegas Sands (LVS), or any casino operator, would want to have to deal with a lawsuit that has major financial implications. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the gambling industry to its knees and, while recovery is possible, there’s going to be a difficult road ahead. Because of this LVS should be more than a little happy that it has been able to convince the courts in Macau to delay, again, a lawsuit that has $12 billion on the line. A judge has agreed to a petition filed by the company to put the case off another year. 

las-vegas-sands-given-reprieve-in-12-billion-lawsuitThe lawsuit was brought against LVS by a former business partner, Marshall Hao, who accuses the large casino company, and owner Sheldon Adelson, of taking advantage of him to get in on the then-nascent casino market in Macau in 2001. Hao asserts that LVS rode his coattails into the city and then dumped him once it was established. It’s a case that has a strong resemblance to another one LVS had faced in the U.S. by Richard Suen, and which was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.

The Macau lawsuit began its journey seven years ago, and LVS was expected to defend itself early last year. However, a judge pushed the suit down in the stack, and should have been heard last September. It was then delayed again, with this coming September becoming the new target.

The coronavirus pandemic forced LVS to ask a judge this past June to hold off once again and push back the latest date. It argued that the ongoing health crisis would make it impossible for the company to travel as needed for the suit, and the expected date of September 16 for the case wouldn’t be feasible. In typical bloated lawyer-speak that uses too many words to get its point across, LVS said in a filing (pdf) with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, “The action is in a preliminary stage and management has determined based on proceedings to data that it is currently unable to determine the probability of the outcome of this matter or the range of reasonably possible loss, if any.”

The ongoing drama will now play out in June of next year, unless another reason for a delay is found. It’s possible the amount sought by Hao will increase by then, as the lawsuit initially wanted just $376 million when it was filed in 2012. That figure jumped to $5 billion in just two years, and then to $12 billion as time has marched on. Hao has based his calculations on the revenue LVS has earned through its Asian arm, Sands China, which oversees the company’s operations in Macau. 

There are apparently several legal issues LVS is having to deal with right now. It added in its filing, “The Company is involved in other litigation in addition to those described above, arising in the ordinary course of business. Management has made certain estimates for potential litigation costs based upon consultation with legal counsel. Actual results could differ from these estimates; however, in the opinion of management, such litigation and claims will not have a material adverse effect on the Company’s financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.”

The operator deserves a lot of credit if it can look at $12 billion-plus in potential payouts and say that this won’t have a “material adverse effect” on its finances.

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