Sands sues law group after S’pore casino complaint

Andrea Tan

Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Singapore casino resort sued the organizers of the first conference it hosted after payment was withheld for an event where the power failed during a speech by the Chief Justice of New South Wales and delegates complained of unfinished rooms.

Marina Bay Sands Pte is seeking S$300,000 ($214,000) from IPBA 2010 Pte, according to a lawsuit filed with the Singapore High Court on May 14. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister was a keynote speaker at the Inter-Pacific Bar Association conference held from May 2 to 5 and the law firm he founded, Lee & Lee, was one of the sponsors.

Sands, controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, halted projects in Macau and Las Vegas during the 2008 financial crisis to focus on the $5.5 billion Singapore complex which opened last month. Singapore lifted a four-decade ban on casinos in 2005 to help it attract 17 million visitors and reach annual tourism revenue of S$30 billion by 2015.

Delegates to the legal conference including New York-based Raymond Burke Jr., who received hotel confirmations promising “intimate little touches and impeccable service,” found unfinished rooms and malfunctioning fixtures.

Marina Bay Sands “is clearly not ready for business,” said Burke. “This is Singapore and you would have expected everything to be working and efficient.”

Air-conditioning malfunction

“My bathroom wasn’t working, the air-conditioning too,” he said May 5. “You may say that these are little things, but it’s the little things that matter most.”

Delegates at the IPBA annual general meeting closing the conference proposed challenging Sands on the fees.

The IPBA organizing committee said in an e-mailed statement that it wrote to Sands on May 6 to propose compensation and a meeting on May 11 was followed by the writ.

“Now that we have been dragged to court we will defend the claim and issue a counterclaim as well,” according to the statement.

Marina Bay Sands said in an e-mailed statement today it had made a police report regarding power disruption at its property and its meetings with IPBA “unfortunately failed to resolve matters.”

“The overwhelming majority of our guests had no complaints, and in fact, we received numerous positive guest comments,” according to the Sands statement. Three events were held last week and 180 deals have been signed for the Expo and Convention Center.

‘Home run’

Adelson, who opened parts of the resort on April 27 after delaying a scheduled end-of-year opening, said then the Singapore casino will be a “grand slam home run.” A “grand opening” for the 2,560 rooms hotel is scheduled for June 23.

“It’s a new facility and one can always expect teething problems,” said Justice Susan Glazebrook of New Zealand’s Court of Appeal, one of the panelists on stage when the power failed during her New South Wales counterpart James Jacob Spigelman’s presentation.

“I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic when the complex is fully operational,” Glazebrook said on May 4.

Singapore ended a ban on casinos that had been in place since independence in 1965 to shed its “unexciting” image, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament in 2005.

To have said “no” to casinos would have signaled “that we want to stay put, to remain the same old Singapore,” Lee Kuan Yew, who was prime minister from 1959 to 1990, told legislators that year. “A neat and tidy place with no chewing gum, no smoking in air-conditioned places, no this, no that — not a fun place.”

Marina Bay Sands is Singapore’s second casino. Genting Singapore Plc opened Resorts World Sentosa’s casino on Feb. 14.

Harry Elias Partnership LLP is representing Sands.

The case is Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd. vs IPBA 2010 Singapore Pte Ltd. S348/2010 in the Singapore High Court.