The major Las Vegas casino companies have been focused on Japan’s forthcoming gambling market for months, but the Asian country no longer has their complete attention.

Las Vegas casinos Brazil Japan

The pool in Rio where Michael Phelps won his record 23rd gold medal now sits in disrepair. Billions in debt, Brazil is looking to legalize gambling to help offset its losses, and Las Vegas casinos are chomping at the bit. (Image: Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

Nearly 11,000 miles away in South America, Brazil’s steps to legalize casinos has quickly attracted the eyes and ears of many of the world’s leading gaming and hospitality conglomerates.

Las Vegas Sands and Caesars Entertainment both recently confirmed that they’re actively looking at Brazil for possible expansion.

Owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Sands has plenty of experience operating casinos outside of the United States. The world’s richest casino company has multiple properties in Macau, China’s special gaming enclave, as well as its $8 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Nearly out of bankruptcy, Caesars is also committed to growing its brand internationally. That’s a big change for the corporation that has largely focused on domestic properties throughout its history.

“You’re looking at what could be significant markets,” Caesars Executive Vice President of Public Policy Jan Jones Blackhurst told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Potential sites of the casino resorts include the capital city of Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo.

Japan or Brazil

In addition to Sands and Caesars, other Las Vegas casino companies including MGM, Wynn, and Hard Rock are all hoping to invade Japan. They’ll have plenty of competition from established casino companies based in Hong Kong, including Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Resorts.

The companies have floated big numbers, as much as $10 billion each, should they be awarded a casino resort license in the Land of the Rising Sun. Whichever companies land the anticipated two licenses in Japan will be the envy of the others.

But Brazil might be a nice consolation prize.

Brazil’s government is reportedly considering a more liberalized gaming market, with as many as 35 casino permits up for grabs. However, most would presumably be satellite gaming facilities, with just two or three actual integrated resorts that would interest companies like Caesars and Las Vegas Sands.

Gambling has long been banned in Brazil, a lottery game called Jogo do Bicho the lone exception. But the fiscal catastrophe that was the 2016 Summer Olympics, which cost an estimated $12 billion, more than double its budget, has prompted federal officials to look for new revenue streams.

Waiting Patiently

Adelson is so keen on Brazil that the 83-year-old paid a visit to the country in May. He met with President Michel Temer and “was impressed with what he saw,” Sands President Rob Goldstein revealed.

Following his trip, Sands said it would be looking at investing $8 billion in an integrated casino resort in Brazil, with the preferred destination being in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo.

Blackstone shrugged off Sands’ public display of power and its $8 billion number. She said that more information is needed regarding tax rates and licensing costs before deciding on a potential figure.

“If you don’t know the tax rate and you don’t know the locations, you can say it, but it might not be that amount,” she concluded.