The announcement last week by Las Vegas Sands Corp. that it was withdrawing from its quest to build an integrated casino resort is a major setback in Japan’s efforts to bring casino gambling to the country.

The decision by Sands and its founder, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is close to U.S. President Donald Trump, comes at a time when doubts are growing as to whether integrated resorts can open within the next few years, given the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, continued concerns about problem gambling and the conditions Japan plans to impose on casino operators.

Adelson had been a particularly important figure in Japan’s efforts to grant a maximum of three casino licenses to three host areas. U.S. media reported that Abe and Trump met with Adelson in Washington in February 2017, during which time Trump mentioned Adelson’s efforts to build a casino in Japan. In addition, Adelson attended a breakfast with Abe and other American CEOs.