US President Donald Trump recommended the bid of Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands for one of three Japanese casino licenses to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting held in the United States last year, according to a report published overnight.
American nonprofit news outlet ProPublica has reported that Trump told Abe during a meeting in February 2017 that he should strongly consider Las Vegas Sands for a license. It is also believed that he mentioned one other major US casino operator, either MGM Resorts or Wynn Resorts, although it is unclear which one. Both Adelson and then Wynn Resorts boss Steve Wynn have long been significant donors to the US Republican Party.
Trump’s recommendation followed a breakfast in Washington by Abe, Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson and two other casino executives, at which the issue of Japan casino licenses was reportedly raised.
According to ProPublica, when Trump mentioned Las Vegas Sands to Abe during a later meeting at his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the visiting Prime Minister was shocked.
“It was totally brought up out of the blue,” the report quotes one witness to the meeting as stating. “They were a little incredulous that he would be so brazen.
“Abe didn’t really respond and said thank you for the information.”
Contacted by ProPublica for comment, LVS spokesman Ron Reese said, “The gaming industry has long sought the opportunity to enter the Japan market. Gaming companies have spent significant resources there on that effort and Las Vegas Sands is no exception.
“If our company has any advantage it would be because of our significant Asian operating experience and our unique convention-based business model. Any suggestion we are favored for some other reason is not based on the reality of the process in Japan or the integrity of the officials involved in it.”