The U.S. government is too restrictive in trying to prevent its companies from corruption abroad and it's hurting business expansion in Asia and elsewhere, according to Penn National Gaming Chairman Peter Carlino.
"There's a little bit of overzealousness in this," Carlino said during a speech at the Baron Investment Conference in New York on Friday. "Those are limitations that American companies face that others don't."
Carlino said he wants to get into the lucrative Asian casino market—Las Vegas Sands already has a large presence in Macau, for example—but hasn't been able to out of fear of violating U.S. rules. That southern Chinese territory saw gambling revenue soar nearly 32 percent last month to reach $4.6 billion, the highest on record.
"There's a problem for U.S. businesses, frankly. We had an interesting opportunity in a country that I won't name; we were hampered in a major way by the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," he said. Under that law, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission continue to aggressively pursue investigations of bribery abroad.
Carlino said Penn looked at expanding into the Asian country via an existing company but one of the line items of the business was to pay off the border guards.
"It seems OK to me, frankly. If that's the game, we'll play it," Carlino said to chuckles from the mostly retiree Baron fund-shareholder audience. "There are problems for American companies trying to do business."
"If it's there, we're looking at it. Problem is, the pickings are slim," he said of countries like Burma, India and Sri Lanka.
"So finding the right opportunity, although we look and I trust we will, is tough," Carlino added.