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Las Vegas Sands Drawing a Crowd

Investors will soon be able to bet on another flashy casino stock, with the initial public offering of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. expected Tuesday.

Business is booming in Las Vegas and stocks in casino companies have been riding high this year, with the Dow Jones Casinos Index up more than 25% year to date. By comparison, the S&P 500 is up about 7%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained only about 1%.

Investors appear eager to pick up shares of Las Vegas Sands, which counts among its properties The Venetian Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, a luxury resort complete with gondola rides and a replica of Venice's St. Mark's Square. The Venetian stands on storied ground: the site of the old Sands Hotel and Casino. Razed in 1996, the Sands was a favorite hangout of Rat Packers like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

Demand was strong enough to allow the Las Vegas-based company to up its price target Friday. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Las Vegas Sands said it estimated the offering price would be $24 to $26 a share, vs. the previous range of $20 to $22 a share.

The company has filed to sell 23.8 million shares, although underwriters led by Goldman Sachs & Co. may opt to purchase an additional 3.5 million shares. All told, the offer could raise $711.9 million.

Assuming 23.8 million shares sell at the midpoint of the current price target, Las Vegas Sands would have an initial market capitalization of $8.75 billion. Public shareholders will own 6.8% of the stock. Sheldon Adelson, the company's chairman and CEO, and trusts for his family members will hold an 87.9% stake, with company directors and senior executives accounting for the remaining 5.3%.

Following the IPO, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. stock is expected to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LVS.

In addition to The Venetian, the company's Las Vegas holdings include the Sands Expo and Convention Center, a 1.15 million-square-foot convention and trade show complex that benefits from midweek conference business. In a filing, the company said midweek occupancy at the facility was 97.2% in the first nine months of the year, better than the 86.9% Las Vegas average.

Also in Las Vegas, the company is spending $1.6 billion to build the Palazzo Casino Resort, with a grand opening set for the second quarter of 2007.

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