Supreme Court Oveturns Ruling Against Las Vegas Sands

Posted on: November 19th, 2010 8:47 am | By: Jeremy Schrute

The owners of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday, when the Nevada Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling against them that would have cost the company $58.6 million.

The court case involved a dispute between a Hong Kong businessman, Richard Suen. The Chinese national sued the company, claiming he was entitled to a fee for helping arrange for them to obtain a gambling license in Macau. To help them, Suen set up meetings between Las Vegas Sands executives and government officials in Beijing.

Suen claims that the licenses would not have been possible without his help. However, the Las Vegas Sands says that because mainland China is not directly involved in Macau’s government, Suen’s meetings were not necessary to secure a license. Macau is allowed independent executive, legislative and judicial powers. Though influenced by mainland China, they enjoy a degree of autonomy. Suen stated that though the mainland doesn’t directly control government affairs in Macau, Beijing was still involved in the licensing decision. The Las Vegas Sands disagrees.

In 2008, a jury sided with Richard Suen, saying that the Sands should have paid him for arranging the meetings in Beijing. With or without Suen’s help, the Las Vegas Sands has secured three different casino resorts in Macau since earning a gambling license in 2002.

Though the lower court awarded $58.6 million to Suen, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the ruling, stating that a new trial is needed. The state Supreme Court said that the lower court should not have admitted a hearsay statement during the 2008 trial. The court ruled that, had the hearsay statement not been allowed, the jury might not have come to the conclusion that Suen had arranged for the license to be awarded. In addition, Nevada’s Supreme Court stated that the lower court made a mistake by not instructing the jury on government regulations in Macau and Mainland China.

No new trial date has been set, but although the Las Vegas Sands is pleased with the recent ruling, they can’t be too optimistic about a retrial. Aside from all of the problems they already faced in their case, since that trial there has been a major change in the company. In 2009, William Weidner resigned as president of the company. Disputes with Chairman Sheldon Adelson are believed to be a factor in his resignation. Some believe that Mr. Weidner may not cooperate in a new trial.

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