Meanwhile, gambling companies have achieved their own version of outsourcing, according to I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School in California who writes a blog called Gambling and the Law.

"Macau forced the casinos to see that they could become like other large U.S. corporations: Set up their plants and operations in other nations and make far more than they can being stuck just in Las Vegas," he said.

Sands, Wynn and MGM have structured their China operations as subsidiaries that could eventually be spun off entirely.

As Adelson, the Sands chief, appeared in court this spring, a former rival, Phil Satre, who headed Harrah's Entertainment, followed the coverage. Harrah's, the nation's largest casinos company when Satre stepped down in the early 2000s, was later renamed Caesars Entertainment Corporation ( CZR).

While Wynn, MGM and Sands have taken off, Caesars has been left behind. Caesars did not apply for the finite number of gambling licenses in Macau in the early 2000s for fear of upsetting domestic regulators.

At that time, Satre said, the U.S. gambling industry had at last gained a legitimacy and mundane familiarity that had been unthinkable a generation ago. He said he didn't think American regulators would tolerate any hint of ties to criminal activity in Asia.

"There are some things that still have to play out, but when I look back and think about the opportunity to go back in Macau," Satre said, "I'd probably take a different posture."

Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this story.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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