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Tiny Chinese Enclave Remakes Gambling World

"This industry is supply-driven, like the movie Field of Dreams: Build it and they will come." he said. "I believe that."

If Adelson's words and jack-o'-lantern smile suggest all is right in the globalized casino world, consider where he made these statements -- on the witness stand in a Vegas courtroom this spring, defending his company against one of his former Macau consultants.

A jury in May found against Adelson, awarding the consultant $70 million for helping Sands secure a lucrative gambling license in Macau. Sands immediately appealed.

The company is also accused of making improper payments to a Macau lawmaker and collaborating with the Chinese mafia. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating. Sands says it has done nothing wrong.

It's not just Sands facing legal and regulatory troubles connected with Macau. Two of the three other major U.S. gambling enterprises are, too: Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) and MGM Resorts International (MGM). Both Sands and Wynn are facing related lawsuits from shareholders who claim Macau mismanagement has damaged the companies.

Wynn is being investigated by the Justice Department and the SEC over a $135 million donation to the University of Macau Development Foundation in 2011. Wynn co-founder Kazuo Okada characterized the donation as "suspicious" in a 2012 letter to the SEC. He noted that the Development Foundation's lead trustee is also a member of the Macau government, and said that the donation coincided with Wynn's request for land to develop a third casino.

"I am at a complete loss as to the business justification for the donation, other than that it was an attempt to curry favor with those that have ultimate authority for issuing gaming licenses," said Okada, who is now under Department of Justice investigation himself for possible bribery in the Philippines, and has fallen out with his former Wynn colleagues. Okada denies wrongdoing.

If his claim is true, the Wynn payment could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA -- a law that bars U.S. companies from paying off officials to win business overseas. Wynn says it acted properly and had no need to buy off authorities. Nevada regulators, in a separate investigation, found no wrongdoing.

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