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The Associated Press March 15, 2012, 1:46AM ET

Sands sued in Macau for $375M by ex-partner

Las Vegas Sands Corp. , the U.S. gambling company controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is being sued for $375 million in a Macau court over the way it won a lucrative gaming license in the Asian casino hub.

Asian American Entertainment Corp. claims in a lawsuit that Las Vegas Sands breached its contract by going behind its back to team up with another company to bid for the license.

Asian American is controlled by Taiwanese-American businessman Shi Sheng Hao, also known as Marshall Hao. It's suing Las Vegas Sands for 3 billion patacas ($375 million). The Macau lawsuit follows an earlier one filed in Nevada, which was dismissed.

Jorge Menezes, the Macau lawyer acting for Asian American, said Thursday that Hao "really feels that he was let down by Adelson."

Macau, which is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, raked in $33.5 billion in revenue last year from 34 casinos. Macau became the world's most lucrative gambling market after a four-decade casino monopoly was ended in 2002, opening the way for foreign operators to enter the market.

Under Macau law, defendants have two months to reply to lawsuits. Menezes said the case will most likely go to trial next year.

Sands China Ltd., which operates the company's three Macau casinos, called Asian American's legal case "meritless."

"The company will vigorously defend the matter in court," it said Thursday in a statement filed to the Hong Kong stock exchange where Sands China is listed.

It's not the first time that Las Vegas Sands has been sued over the way it acquired its Macau gambling license. In 2008, Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen, who claimed he helped Las Vegas Sands win the license, won a $43.8 million verdict in a civil lawsuit filed in Las Vegas against the company.

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