LAS VEGAS/LOS ANGELES, March 19 (Reuters) - A judge in Nevada on Tuesday ruled against Las Vegas Sands Corp’s effort to throw out a case against it by a businessman who says he is owed millions of dollars for helping the casino firm get an operating license in Macau.
Tuesday’s ruling paved the way for jury selection to begin next week in the trial of the long-running case, which will bring Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson to the witness stand on April 4.
In a surprise appearance, Adelson also attended Tuesday’s hearing on Sands’ motion for summary judgment.
Clark County District Court Judge Rob Bare ruled against Sands motion that had sought a judgment in its favor ahead of the trial, which will be the second trial in the breach-of-contract case brought against the casino operator by Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen.
In the long-running case, Suen claims the gaming company did not pay him as promised for arranging meetings with key Chinese government officials that helped pave the way for Sands’ entry to the gambling district of Macau.
A jury in 2008 ruled against Sands, awarding Suen $43.8 million in damages, plus interest. That judgment was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court three years ago due to what it deemed errors by trial judge Michelle Leavitt in admitting testimony by former Sands President Bill Weidner.
In that trial, Weidner testified through a deposition that he agreed in 2001 to pay Suen a $5 million fee, plus 2 percent of the casino revenue if his work led to securing a gaming license.
Sands currently operates four successful properties in Macau.
Las Vegas Sands contends Suen did nothing to earn the money, and that the gaming company arranged its license on its own.
Judge Bare let Adelson delay his court appearance until after Passover, which begins on March 26 and runs through April 2, to allow the Sands CEO to observe the holiday.
Sands has faced similar claims by others who claimed they helped the company win the concession in Macau, where it operates its properties through Sands China Ltd..
In June 2009, the company reached a $42.5 million settlement with three business associates who claimed they had assisted the company in receiving a gaming concession in Macau.
The former Portuguese enclave of Macau, about an hour away from Hong Kong by ferry and with a population of half a million, raked in $38 billion in annual gambling revenues last year. It is the only place where people can legally gamble at casinos in China.