Las Vegas Sands not interested in UK casinos

Los Angeles (Reuters) – U.S. gambling giant Las Vegas Sands is not interested in running any casinos in Britain after the government there scaled back its plan to open a supercasino in Manchester, a top executive said on Wednesday.

„We spent a lot of time with the folks there (in Britain), trying to figure out how to do a larger style of gaming,“ said William Weidner, Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Sands, at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in Los Angeles. „That didn’t work. Mr Brown pretty well shut that down.“

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Gordon Brown pulled the plug on plans to build a Las Vegas-style supercasino in Manchester, after calling for a review of the idea last year.

The well-publicized decision, following months of campaigning against the casino by religious leaders and some locals, is expected to be announced in Parliament next week.

Brown’s government is still expected to give the go-ahead for 16 smaller casinos across the country, but bidding for contracts to run those would not likely interest big U.S. gambling companies, Weidner said.

„The home team won. The operators there in the UK worked the system very well, so they ended up with what they wanted, what I would consider to be sub-optimal, lousy little casinos that kept them in the game and kept us out,“ said Weidner.

U.S. companies like Las Vegas Sands, Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage have transformed Las Vegas in the last 10 years with a series of enormous and progressively more glitzy casino resorts, and are attempting the same in the Asian gambling enclave of Macau.

The smaller casinos now envisaged in Britain would not be large enough to appeal to the big U.S. operators, said Weidner, and would be better suited to local operators such as Gala Coral and Rank Group.

„And so they have the worst of all worlds — now they have casinos that won’t drive visitors in from further away and they’ll just have larger places that take more of the money of the local people,“ said Weidner.

„If we’d have known the game was stacked against us, we wouldn’t have wasted jet fuel going over there,“ he added.