No, Las Vegas Sands isn’t planning a North Korean casino


las-vegas-sands-north-korea-casinoReports that casino operator Las Vegas Sands wants to build a gaming venue in North Korea don’t have any basis in fact.

On Saturday, Mondoweiss reported on a speech given by Sands boss Sheldon Adelson at a June 27 meeting in Jerusalem of his Birthright Israel travel program for Jewish youth. During the speech, Adelson made the following comments on the recent dialogue between the US and North Korean governments:

“I wasn’t born here. I wasn’t raised here, I didn’t serve in the army here. I did serve in the United States army. I’m a veteran of the Korean war. Actually, I hope Trump gets North and South Korea to finish the war. I feel as though I might be called back up. I fight enough. I don’t want to go back to Korea to fight. I want to go back to Korea to open up my business.”

Numerous gaming media outlets have since claimed that Adelson was referencing Sands’ ambition to establish a North Korean casino. This appears to have been sparked by reports in June that North Korea was seeking US help to fund construction of a large-scale integrated resort in a new proposed international tourist zone.

You’ll notice that Adelson’s comments above don’t specify which Korea he’s eyeing for planting his casino flag. And while North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have toured Sands’ Singapore property Marina Bay Sands ahead of his summit with US President Donald Trump — and Adelson has an on-again/off-again relationship with Trump — Adelson is a savvy businessman whose history offers no evidence of the recklessness that would be required to invest the millions (or billions) in a jurisdiction as volatile as North Korea.

Sands has repeatedly expressed interest in establishing a South Korean casino property, specifically floating plans for resorts in Incheon and Busan. However, Sands stipulated that it wouldn’t build in South Korea unless the company relaxed its ban on local residents entering the vast majority of the nation’s existing casinos.

Since North Korea’s alleged casino plans specifically refer to an international tourist zone, it’s extremely dubious that Sands would be willing to relax its locals requirement for the North when it wouldn’t do so in the South’s far more stable legal climate.

So, while it makes for a good headline, the idea of Sands establishing a North Korean casino is about as likely as Kim Jong-un and Trump wife-swapping to celebrate the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.