Business in Las Vegas is picking up, particularly on weekends, as the economy recovers, Las Vegas Sands Corp Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson said on Thursday in an interview on the CNBC network.

The casino billionaire said the meeting business in Las Vegas wasn't helped last year by government criticism of bankers who held meetings in the famed U.S. gambling mecca.

Still, the weekends are coming back strong and I think by next year we'll probably be 80 percent of normal for the group business, Adelson told CNBC.

Gaming revenue rose 2.4 percent on the Las Vegas Strip to $467.1 million in March from a year earlier, even as gaming revenue overall for the state of Nevada slipped 0.7 percent in the month to $912.2 million, the state Gaming Control Board reported in May.

March was the second-straight month this year that gaming revenue increased on the Vegas Strip, where Sands operates the Palazzo and Venetian resorts.

Las Vegas Sands also owns properties in Macau and opened a $5.7 billion casino resort in Singapore in April. Adelson said business in Asia never went down as Vegas grappled with the recession.

Adelson also told CNBC his company would like to enter Japan, saying there's a lot of conversation in Japan about legalizing gaming.

Shares of Las Vegas Sands closed up 2.8 percent to $24.93 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. They have risen about 67 percent this year.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs, editing by Bernard Orr)