Marina Bay Sands Probed Over Anti-ML Violations

The Singapore based Marina Bay Sands Casino, which is owned by U.S. businessmen Sheldon Adelson, is currently being investigated for allegations that it violated anti-money laundering protocols over its handling of the lucrative betting accounts of top gamblers. The Justice Departments has now issued a subpoena in an effort to uncover any abuse of internal financial controls.

Singapore skyline night.

The Singapore skyline is dominated by Sheldon Adelson’s Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, and in these difficult times the operator is facing a series of legal and economic challenges on several fronts. ©Walkerssk/Pixabay

Prosecutors have already been in contact with the compliance officer representing the firm and are pressing the casino to produce documents relating to undue gambling junkets, third-party credit for the casino chips, amongst several other serious violations. Another dimension of the U.S. lead investigation is if the casino issued a retaliation against the whistle-blowers who broke the news to the authorities that foul-play had been committed.

The fallout in equity markets was substantial, and the material cost of the controversy embroiling Sands was reflected by a sharp 5.3% share price contraction, before regaining slightly with a 1.1% bounce back before close. Other operators on the Las Vegas strip also managed to erase declines after re-opening their doors following the end of the government enforced lockdown in Nevada.

Marina Bay Sands is the Asian component of Sheldon Adelson’s pan American-Asian casino empire, and indeed, it is by far the most profitable component of his vast business network. The Asian operator is one of the most profitable casinos in the world, combined with the Macau casinos also under Adelson’s control, these Asian based operators account for over 85% of the company’s revenue. These astronomical earnings have secured Sheldon Adelson as one of the richest men in the United States.

Reaction to the initial subpoena by the Singapore based casino was to abjectly deny all connections with the purported crimes. But they also consolidated that if any illicit activity has been brought to their attention, then they will fully investigate the matter. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s office has offered no further information on the case besides the subpoena issued to a former employee alleged to have transferred funds to high-rollers.

Other Investigations Against the Operator

The parent company of Marina Bay Sands, Las Vegas Sands, has drawn a lot of attention to itself over the years, and often for very unsavory activities. In 2013, a $47.4M fine was paid to end a federal investigation into its financial activities following reports that suspicious deposits were being taken by high-stakes gamblers. There has also been the 2017 fine of $6.96M which was paid to end a legal dispute in Macau allegedly involving a bribe paid to officials in the local government. Sands has also admitted in the past to willingly and knowingly accepting deposits to its casino that it has been unable to ensure the legitimacy of.

On top of this damning rap sheet of its parent company, Marina Bay Sands also faces an investigation from the Singapore Casino Regulatory Authority over its lacklustre approach to the money transfer policy. The casino is clearly undergoing a rough transitionary period, but they continue to maintain their position of being committed to eradicating criminal influence or exploitation at their casino venues.

One of the most prevalent crimes being committed at the casino is the use of junket operators, these crimes involve making provisions of transportation, hotels, and credit to high-roller casino players, but the practice is highly-illegal. The practice is defined to circumvent strict capital controls, and they are highly restricted throughout Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands Huge Profit Margin

With a monopolistic hold on the local gaming market, Marina Bay Sands is one of only two operators granted the license to offer gambling services on the island, the firm has one other counterpart being Genting Singapore Ltd. Last year this grip was tightened, and local lawmakers voted to extend this exclusive arrangement until 2030 after both firms agreed to pledge a combined $9bn to tourism projects on the island.

This generous investment in local infrastructure goes to show the immense liquidity of Marina Bay Sands. According to the analysis conducted by Bloomberg, Marina Bay Sands has a 56% profit margin, making them one of the most profitable casinos in the world.

Since their grand opening back in 2010, Marina Bay Sands has never really looked back on their laurels, it has become one of the island’s most iconic tourist attractions and is heavily associated with some of Singapore’s richest inhabitants. As well as a 160,000 square foot casino floor, the complex is integrated with a hotel, shopping mall, and rooftop bar / swimming pool area.

As the entire world’s casino industry sweats out the last few weeks of government lockdown, firms like Marina Bay Sands are already plotting their comebacks. After revenue plunged 93%, and a new Singapore Gaming Authority was established, there is desperate need for a quick recovery.

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