Sands China, the Asian division of Las Vegas Sands Corp, denied public statements that its promotional app, Sands Resort Macao, had been targeted by Chinese authorities. On Dec. 28, the Cyberspace Administration of China listed “Sands Macao” as one of 3,469 downloadable apps which had been targeted for removal from the Chinese App Store.
The Cyberspace Administration claimed it had removed the app due to the promotion of gambling. Over the past 10 months, several Chinese government agencies have worked to remove apps associated with the gambling industry.
Sands China said in a press release to the Macau News Agency its app was still active. The statement said, “Sands China confirms that all our official mobile apps continue to be accessible and function normally from within China.”
“Our applications and websites comply strictly with Chinese laws and regulations.”
Copycap Sands Macao Apps
The best explanation for the confusion is the “Sands Macao” app removed was an unlicensed copycat application launched by a rogue designer. Sands China has dealt with such copycats for years. YogoNet reported that Wynn China and Sands China each have had to deal with “rogue online gaming operator incorporating the company’s trademarks and intellectual property without permission”.
Sands China owns the Venetian Macau, the most popular casino in China. It also runs the Marina Bay Sands, the most popular casino in Singapore. Many unscrupulous game developers trade on Sands’ popularity and fame among the Chinese people by posting apps on the China App Store claiming to be the real Sands Macau.
Back in 2015, Sands China sued to have 35 different copycat gaming apps removed from China App Store. Eventually, the government forced the removal of all such copycat apps and awarded Sands China with $2 million in damages.
Sands Resorts Macao App
The official Sands Resorts Macao app allows downloaders to book hotel rooms and get the latest updates on their loyalty rewards program. It also texts promotional offers to those who use the app.
The app does not allow users to play casino games, whether they use practice mode or use real money. That has not mattered in many cases.
China Purges Poker Apps
After the culture ministry and tourism industry were merged into the Chinese Tourism & Culture Ministry in March 2018, the new agency began purging Chinese social media of poker-related apps. Advertising poker tournaments in Macau or elsewhere was illegal. Even references to Texas Hold’em were deemed illegal.
The move caused Macau casino operators like Melco Resorts & Entertainment to remove their poker rooms from land-based casinos on the Cotai Strip. City of Dreams Macau canceled Asian Poker Tour (APT) events.
Chinese App Store and VPNs
Eventually, the Chinese App Store — the Chinese version of Apple’s iTunes App Store — purged over 25,000 gambling-related apps from its website. Most were created by little-known casino game designers for applications which could be used by illegal gaming operators to track casino games for banned activities.
Other apps included virtual private networks (VPNs) to help get around government firewalls. While VPNs and illegal gambling are a worldwide phenomenon, such things bring with them large penalties, even for the players. In most countries, players are seldom prosecuted for illegal gambling — though operators, organizers, and touts are.
Sands China’s Advantages
Las Vegas Sands Corp does not always face the same problems as its competitors. Sheldon Adelson has a good relationship with Macau officials, as well as Beijing officials. When Melco’s Studio City and Wynn Resorts’ Wynn Palace had trouble getting the right number of baccarat tables approved, LVS’s Parisian Macau had no such trouble.
Those issues caused Lawrence Ho to complain that non-gaming revenue would never work in Macau — the way it does in Las Vegas. The same concernes led former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn to complain about gaming table allotments for his $4 billion investment.
Meanwhile, Sheldon Adelson praised the Beijing government and claimed he had confidence Sands China would receive a fair table allotment. He was right.