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UPDATE 1-Sands CEO says to spend "whatever it takes" for Japan casino

TOKYO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Las Vegas Sands Corp Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson said on Monday his company was willing to spend "whatever it takes" to set up a casino project in Japan, one of the largest untapped gaming markets in the world.

"Would I put in $10 billion? Yes," Adelson said at a media briefing during an investor seminar in Tokyo. "Would I rather do it at 7? Yes."

Las Vegas Sands is considered a strong candidate to win a license in Japan, should the country open its market to casino gambling, in large part due to the success of its resort in Singapore which has served as a model for Japanese lawmakers.

Japan is widely considered Asia's largest market for gambling after Macau, the world's biggest gaming hub. Industry analysts predict Japan could rake in $15 billion in annual gaming revenues, making it the second-biggest market globally.

But with every major global operator targeting Japan, competition is sure to be fierce. U.S.-based MGM Resorts International, Malaysia's Genting Bhd and Macau-based Melco Crown Entertainment are among those also pushing hard for a crack at the market.

An group of lawmakers submitted an initial promotional bill to parliament in December to legalise gambling, with expectations that it will be debated around May. If that passes, the proposal will go into a second bill with concrete regulations, which proponents hope can be passed in 2016.

If this two-step legislation process goes smoothly, casino backers say the first resort could be opened in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.