Sands, S’pore law group said to settle unpaid bills dispute

Andrea Tan

Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Singapore casino resort and a lawyers’ group settled lawsuits over unpaid bills and compensation for a May conference, which marred the opening of the $5.5 billion complex.

The suits will be discontinued as part of an amicable, confidential settlement, Sands unit Marina Bay Sands Pte and IPBA 2010 Pte, the organizer of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association conference, said in a joint statement today.

Marina Bay Sands “regrets the unfortunate incidents that affected the conference held at its facilities,” the statement said. IPBA had claimed that Sands misrepresented its resort as a world-class venue at a time some rooms were unfinished and some facilities were closed. IPBA had been sued for S$641,246 ($470,000) in unpaid bills.

“With the lawsuits out of the way, it’ll be back to business as usual,” said Teng Yee Tan, a Hong Kong-based gaming analyst with CIMB-GK Securities HK Ltd., noting that the dispute had tarnished the Singapore casino’s image.

IPBA will receive a discount on its bill, according to two people familiar with the settlement earlier. The lawyers’ group had paid S$200,000 of the S$841,245.75 bill, according to court papers.

Delegates at the conference also complained of power failures and lost luggage. The Bar association’s annual general meeting discussed an “unprecedented” motion empowering it to sue Sands, according to IPBA’s lawsuit.

$1 billion contribution

The dispute marred the opening of the resort, which Sands has said will contribute $1 billion in annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization next year. Two casinos opened in Singapore this year after a four-decade ban was lifted, boosting tourism and the city state’s economy.

The decision to end the dispute comes seven weeks after Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson said he was ready to settle with the lawyers “any day they want” and he would “rather make love than war.”

“Some of the problems were normal opening difficulties that any property has, particularly one of that size,” Michael Leven, Las Vegas Sands’ chief operating officer, said in a June 9 Bloomberg Television interview in New York. “But we did have a convention of lawyers to start out with, so we knew we were going to have some kind of conversation.”

Sands used the attendance of Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the event to speed up its casino permit, according to IPBA’s June 8 suit. The law conference, which featured former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, was held May 2-5, only days after Las Vegas Sands opened parts of the resort, which was originally scheduled to open at the end of 2009.

The cases are Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd. v IPBA 2010 Singapore Pte Ltd. S464/2010 and S348/2010 in the Singapore High Court.

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